UPDATE: Was there really an earthquake off Virginia Beach?

By on January 16, 2019

Map of the magnitude 4.6 earthquake off the Virginia coast Tuesday evening. (Courtesy USGS)

Tuesday’s magnitude 4.6 earthquake off the Virginia coast may not have been a true temblor at all.

There are no fault lines or tectonic plates near the quake’s epicenter, recorded at 6:30 p.m. 162 miles east of Virginia Beach.

The U.S. Geological Survey on Wednesday didn’t yet have enough information to “characterize it as an earthquake,” said USGS geophysicist Julie Dutton.

“We don’t know yet if it could have been an underwater slide,” she said. “There’s not a lot of information coming out yet.”

Yesterday’s incident did not trigger any tsunami watches or warnings for the coast, though underwater landslides are known to cause tsunami waves.

Due to the federal government shutdown, the USGS Earthquake Center is working with limited resources, slowing research into the event. The USGS did downgrade the quake’s strength slightly, from a magnitude 4.7 to a 4.6.

Whatever its origins, Dutton called it “a sizeable quake,” in an area not known for seismic activity.

“It’s rare to have earthquakes off the coast, but it’s not completely unheard of,” she said.

The USGS recorded more than 180 reports from people who felt the rumble Tuesday, mainly along the coast from south New Jersey to the Outer Banks.

Earthquakes along the East Coast aren’t as frequent as those west of the Rocky Mountains, but they are felt over a much wider geographic area.





  • Rick

    Felt it in Hegins, PA.

    Tuesday, Jan 15 @ 8:35 pm
  • Renee

    We didn’t feel it in Va Beach

    Wednesday, Jan 16 @ 8:27 am
  • KDH

    Felt it here for sure..

    Wednesday, Jan 16 @ 10:11 am
  • Luminous

    Living in an OBX home on pilings, a “tremblor” is felt every time a truck goes by or the wind gusts up over 40 knots. After a while, these events don’t stick in memory and no, I don’t remember anything unusual about 6:30 pm Tuesday.

    Wednesday, Jan 16 @ 3:50 pm
  • dave

    Any fracking going on up there?

    Wednesday, Jan 16 @ 4:45 pm
  • Lucy

    We didn’t feel it we live in Virginia Beach.

    Wednesday, Jan 16 @ 6:13 pm
  • Ellen h Williams

    Did not feel a thing and did not realize this supposedly happened.

    Wednesday, Jan 16 @ 6:53 pm
  • Merry Anne

    Did not feel it in Kill Devil Hills, NC, OBX

    Wednesday, Jan 16 @ 10:05 pm
  • Ronnie Ballance

    Did anyone notice the oceanfront beach yesterday? What I saw was a clean wash from toe of dune out to the water as far as I could see North and South.
    Something happened to cause that event.

    Thursday, Jan 17 @ 6:42 am
  • Bill

    This might be a good time to ask about a couple of OBX phenomena I’ve experienced numerous times over two decades. One is a very distinct shake or sudden shock wave like movement that can sometimes be strong enough to cause hanging light fixtures to sway slightly. Some days this will occur several times. The other is a very clear and at times loud “boom” sound. The two don’t ever occur at the same time or on the same day. My explanation has mostly been aircraft breaking the sound barrier and naval ships testing big guns somewhere over the horizon. But I think it’s very possible neither is correct. Anyone know what these two phenomena might actually be?

    Thursday, Jan 17 @ 12:44 pm
  • Renée M.

    I live about a mile from Buckroe Beach and I felt something but didn’t say anything because my husband would think I was crazy. Just seeing this article today. I feel better know there was some kind of tremor.

    Thursday, Jan 17 @ 3:07 pm
  • M

    Didn’t feel it where I was on obx at all .

    Thursday, Jan 17 @ 5:12 pm
  • Niki

    I didn’t feel anything. Grandy NC.

    Thursday, Jan 17 @ 6:28 pm
  • Windy Bill

    Bill, the booms you hear are Blackbeards’ cannons. Now if someone can add what the earliest record of this is that would be cool!

    Friday, Jan 18 @ 6:38 pm