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A grouping of faults deep below Lake Erie are adding to Ohio's earthquake activity


There are often reports of earthquakes on the West Coast. In Ohio, not so much. But the state's northeastern region recently felt a lot of shaking for a few minutes. As Ideastream Public Media's Abigail Bottar reports, it was one of several earthquakes to hit Ohio so far this year.

ABIGAIL BOTTAR, BYLINE: It was late Sunday night - about 11 p.m. - on August 27, and Margaret Bushman was finishing a good book when something odd happened.

MARGARET BUSHMAN: The couch shook, and the whole, kind of, house was shaking. But it lasted about that long. And I heard this rumbling sound that at first I thought was my dryer. And then I said, no, my dryer's not that loud in my living room.

BOTTAR: Bushman lives in Madison, Ohio, along the shores of Lake Erie, northeast of Cleveland. She realized quickly that what she felt was an earthquake - not one that threw her house out of disarray or caused harm. But it was noticeable, clocking in with a magnitude of 3.6.

PAUL EARLE: I mean, you can have an earthquake this large pretty much anywhere.

BOTTAR: Paul Earle is a seismologist with the United States Geological Survey.

EARLE: I mean, this is not a huge earthquake. It does not take a huge fault to generate an earthquake of this size.

BOTTAR: What northeast Ohio has is a grouping of faults, faults that are miles below Lake Erie and underground in the bedrock. And earthquakes are not uncommon here. Last month, there were 11 quakes in Ohio, five of them in this Lake County region, and the one in late August, although minor by earthquake standards, was the largest by far. Vickie Wyatt lives in Geneva, Ohio, an area also affected. She says the sound of the earthquake gave her a clue that this was bigger than normal.

VICKIE WYATT: We had that rumbling. Like, it was getting a little louder. You could hear it and kind of feel it before it hit.

BOTTAR: Two aftershocks were recorded after the quake. Seismologist Earle says it's common for one earthquake to trigger others.

EARLE: It's more like popcorn going off, where you have a kernel - kernel explodes, and then a bunch of kernels explode, and then it stops for - calms down for a while and so forth and so on. So it's not surprising to see a variation in the number of earthquakes with time.

BOTTAR: In Ohio, that's meant a lot of low-level tremors, which typically cause little, if any, damage. Joe Busher, the head of the Lake County Emergency Management Agency, says that was the case for this latest quake in northeast Ohio.

JOE BUSHER: That's because of strong building codes and the enforcement of those codes throughout the county that our structures all held up well during that event.

BOTTAR: Vickie Wyatt agrees. She says nothing was damaged in her home, and she feels prepared for any future Ohio earthquakes that may come.

WYATT: We can be pretty self-sufficient. We grow a garden and hunt and fish. We always have stuff, and we have a generator.

BOTTAR: She's just hoping she doesn't have to use it anytime soon, even though she lives in a seismically active region.

For NPR News, I'm Abigail Bottar in Lake County, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Abigail Bottar | Ideastream Public Media