A magnitude 4.0 earthquake was felt throughout the northeastern United States on Tuesday October 16, 2012 at approximately 7:12 p.m. The earthquake’s epicenter was about 3.7 miles from Lake Arrowhead, Maine. This town is located about 30 miles west of Portland, Maine and 100 miles north of Boston.

Shaking was reported in every New England state and on Long Island. Bill McNulty of Quincy, Mass. felt the quake at his home.

“[My] house shook for about 10 seconds,” he said in a Twitter message. “[It was] scary but [there was] no damage.”

Like McNulty, Dennis Conroy of Lawrence, Mass. also experienced the earthquake.

“[My] doors were shaking,” he said via Twitter. Neither McNulty nor Conroy reported any damage, an observation shared by other New England residents.

Though earthquakes are most common in the western United States due to the presence of numerous faults and subduction zones, the eastern United States also periodically experiences some major seismic activity. On Sept. 5, 1944, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake centered near Massena, N.Y. caused about $2 million in property damage. Another natural disaster struck upstate New York on April 20, 2002 when a magnitude 5.1 earthquake that hit Plattsburgh and caused major damage to area roadways. More recently, a magnitude 5.8 quake centered in northern Virginia reverberated throughout the East Coast—including Long Island—on Aug. 23, 2011.

In spite of recent earthquakes in the eastern United States, they still occur relatively rarely, and many people are startled when experiencing them; they do not immediately consider the sensation to be an earthquake. McNulty and Conroy both fall into this category.

“When an earthquake strikes the Northeast, everyone’s first instinct is to check Twitter to make sure they’re not going crazy,” said McNulty.

Conroy was similarly startled. “I thought a tree fell on [my] house,” he said. Earthquakes in this region may be rare, but as demonstrated by the phenomenon in Maine, they do occur, sometimes with startling intensity.

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