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Micro earthquake hits Orleans County, with little notice

What if the earth shook, and no one felt it?

That’s apparently what happened in Orleans County early Monday evening, when an earthquake with a magnitude of 1.8 on the Richter scale struck, its epicenter about six miles northeast of Medina.

That’s considered a “microearthquake,” according to EarthquakesToday.info, based on information from the United States Geological Survey. Microquakes, defined as any earthquake registering below 2.0 on the Richter scale, are considered weaker than even a “minor earthquake.”

Those microearthquakes generally are not felt, and that appeared to be the case here. Calls to local police agencies and the National Weather Service found no reports of the quake, even on Tuesday morning.

For those who like their information precise, the quake was recorded at 25.8 seconds after 7:08 p.m. Monday, according to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University.

The epicenter, near the intersection of Townline and Ridge roads, was six miles northeast of Medina and 21 miles northeast of Lockport, according to other reports.

Experts say Western New York gets about one to three such quakes per year.

“So it’s not unusual, either in terms of location or magnitude,” said Robert D. Jacobi, a University at Buffalo geology professor.

Jacobi, who called this a “small-magnitude earthquake,” also found some significance in the location, noting that the epicenter was 13 to 14 miles west of the Clarendon-Linden Fault System and about five miles east of another, unnamed possible fault system. Two other similar events have occurred in the same region since records have been kept, he added.

“[That] suggests that these are not purely random events but are a result of fault systems that are releasing small amounts of stress,” he said.

Jacobi wasn’t at all surprised that no one apparently felt the quake.

“You almost have to be at the epicenter to feel one of these things,” he said.

email: gwarner@buffnews.com