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West Hartford Residents Awaken to Sound and Feel of Overnight Earthquake

In this image from Quake Watch, the epicenter of the March 5 earthquake appears to be on the Holy Family Retreat Center property. Courtesy of John Lyons

West Hartford weather guru John Lyons lives near the epicenter of the March 5 earthquake, and shares some details about the event. Others who experienced the quake also weigh in.

By John Lyons

Ronni Newton also contributed to this report

As Clement Clarke Moore said so eloquently; people slept last night and “… all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” While folks went to bed last night not waiting for St. Nicholas, they did go to bed hoping for a restful night sleep. Typically here in West Hartford, that is a forgone conclusion.

As the last gasps of winter continued outside, the winds and cold drove in from the north but aside from the occasional gust, all was quiet in our little community. Kids slept soundly, perhaps without dreams of sugar plums dancing, but of school and the return to normalcy as the age of COVID slowly begins to edge into the past and toward to history books.

Moore speaks of a loud clatter and indeed, around 1:14 a.m., the silence was shattered with a boom and what sounded like rolling thunder echoing into the hills. Echoing Moore’s prose, many sprang from their beds opening their shutters to see what was the matter and saw … nothing.

A small tectonic earthquake hit the southwest corner of town last night. The impact was a large boom followed by a rolling sound as the boom echoed through the hills. It lasted all of five seconds and so far has not been followed by any aftershocks. The tremblor registered 1.9 on the Richter scale which, without the associated noise, probably would have resulted in just about no one being aware of it happening at all.

Image from Quake Watch. Courtesy of John Lyons

The only real notice we got at our house (which is about 1,300 feet from the “epicenter”) was the dog barking for a moment or two.

Incredibly, records for earthquakes in Connecticut have been kept since 1678 and since then, 115 “noticeable” tremors have occurred. Well, I am guessing that count is 116 now.

The only recorded earthquake centered in the state resulting in damage occurred in 1791. It was centered in Moodus and had an estimated strength of 4.5 on the Richter scale. A 4.5 is enough to cause mild to moderate damage to chimneys, etc., which is what that one caused.

Hartford had an estimated 3.8 earthquake on Aug. 9, 1849 that scared residents but didn’t cause much in the way of recorded damage.

There is some small chance of aftershocks over the coming hours and days. I think we will be hard-pressed to feel them because the main event was only a 1.9 and those typically are not noticeable. If you are working at home and in silence, you might think a sound is is a wind gust or house settling. That could be an aftershock.

We are lucky. Some parts of the world can have massive earthquakes. Only yesterday, an island off of new Zealand had a massive 8.2 earthquake and tsunami warnings went up for thousands of miles – including Hawaii. California has to live with the reality of a potential for damaging earthquakes every single day.

We don’t often have notable earthquakes here. We do get hurricanes and an occasional tornado though so we do have other risks.

The only one winking his eye and twisting his head in our household early this morning was Leo, our trusty watch dog, alerting the household that indeed, something was happening. He did exclaim as a dog can … moments later he was sound asleep.

Other reactions

West Hartford resident Jennifer Cote, who lives in the Tunxis Road area, right near the epicenter, said the sound woke her up, and also woke up one of her cats – although her husband slept through it.

“It was so loud,” Cote said.

She posted the following to the Neighbors & Friends in West Hartford Facebook page at 1:30 a.m., when she still had no idea what had occurred: “There was a loud bang that woke me up and left my house rattling at 1:15 am. Did anyone else feel it and/or know what it was?”

Dozens of responses followed from residents of the Buena Vista area, as well as those who live near Conard High School and in Elmwood. Some thought a tree had fallen, others thought it was the wind, or an explosion, trash cans blowing over, or a crash on I-84. Others thought one of their children had fallen out of bed.

The following were some of the responses that those who posted shared with We-Ha.com:

“My baby’s bouncy chair started playing music and we thought it was a mouse! No idea there was an earthquake until seeing these posts!” said Alyssa Loveland.

“Woke up from a bang and the house shaking for about a second. Thought a tree fell on the house,” said Erin Buckmiller.

“It woke me, and my son Charlie up. I heard a booming sound, and our house shook. I thought something had exploded nearby,” said Liz Grabber.

“We live on Wood Pond. The entire road was up texting each other wondering what it was, as we all had been checking our homes and each other,” said Jennifer Dauphinais.

Chris Tagliavini shared the following which was recorded by his home security system:

West Hartford Police Capt. Michael Perruccio said emergency dispatch started receiving calls around 1:17 a.m.

“We received multiple calls of a loud noise that caused houses to shake,” he said. He said police are not aware of any damage or injuries that occurred.

The most recent earthquake to be felt in West Hartford was actually not that long ago. On Nov. 8, 2020, a quake that measured 3.6 occurred off the southern coast of Massachusetts.

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