3.8 quake strikes near Buffalo, rumbles felt in Ontario

A magnitude 3.8 earthquake that struck near Buffalo, New York, on Monday morning was felt “lightly” in southern Ontario.

Natural Resources Canada said there are currently no reports of damage and none should be expected after the event.

The federal government’s seismogram viewer shows that the quake occurred at 6:15 a.m.

Earthquakes Canada said the shock wave originated six kilometers east of Buffalo, New York, 97 kilometers east southeast of Hamilton, Ontario, and 101 kilometers southeast of Toronto.

According to the US Geological Survey, which classified the quake at magnitude 3.8, the seismic activity originated in West Seneca, New York.

Earthquakes Canada, meanwhile, said the event registered as a magnitude 4.2 earthquake on the Richter scale north of the border.

Seismologist Yaareb Altaweel told the Associated Press it was Buffalo’s strongest quake in at least 40 years.

Surveillance video shared with CTV News Toronto from a home in Buffalo shows the moment the quake struck.

A thud can be heard before the structure shakes and its residents wake up.

An earthquake struck near Buffalo, NY on February 6, 2023. (United States Geological Survey)

Stephen Halchuk is a seismologist with Natural Resources Canada and said that while earthquakes at the western end of Lake Ontario and the eastern end of Lake Erie are common, Monday’s one is “a little bit bigger” than normal.

“This scattered low-level activity is happening all the time. Most of the earthquakes that happen in this region are too small for people to notice,” Halchuk told CTV News Toronto in an interview.

“But today’s event was only slightly larger and it felt like a strong but short-lived jolt by people in southern Ontario and upstate New York,” Halchuk said, adding that the Earth’s tectonic plates are constantly moving at a rate of about two to four inches per year, about the same speed that a fingernail grows.

Halchuk explained that because southwestern Ontario is located in the middle of the North American tectonic plate, and not on a plate boundary like California, for example, earthquakes in the area are rarely powerful enough to create significant damage.

“There are small faults below the earth’s surface that never get big enough to break the earth’s surface. As stresses in the Earth’s crust build up over time, energy is released in these small earthquakes in the region,” he said.

On Monday afternoon, Niagara Mayor Jim Diodati described the moment the quake struck as “surreal.”

“It woke me up at 6:15 am I thought there was a snowplow going out on the street, very loud,” Diodati recalled.

“Right away, I thought about power plants, I thought about a lot of things,” he continued. “So we checked into the Skylon Tower, the big hotels, the [Ontario Power Generation]the Niagara Parks Commission, and all is well.”

Diodati took a moment while speaking to reporters on Monday to express his condolences to the people of Syria and Turkiye, who suffered a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake on Monday that killed more than 3,400 people.

“We would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the people of Syria and Turkiye for what they are going through at this time. We know it’s devastating,” he said. “Canada is a country of immigrants from all over the world, and I know there are a lot of Turks and Syrians here, and I know a lot of them are worried about their family back home.”

Monday’s earthquake in Buffalo was “quite small” compared to the disaster in Syria and Turkiye, Halchuk said.

The ground shaking, or tremor, at the epicenter of that quake would likely be 10 times more intense than that in Buffalo and the amount of energy released would be 1,000,000 times stronger, according to Halchuk.

Data from Earthquakes Canada shows that the strongest seismic event ever to occur in the region was on August 12, 1929, when a magnitude 5.5 earthquake was recorded.

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