COLUMBUS – Although most people do not think of Ohio as an earthquake-prone state, at least 120 earthquakes with epicenters in Ohio have been felt since 1776.
In addition, a number of earthquakes with origins outside Ohio have been felt in the state. Most of these earthquakes have been felt only locally and have caused no damage or injuries.
However, at least 14 moderate-size earthquakes have caused minor to moderate damage in Ohio. Fortunately, no deaths and only a few minor injuries have been recorded for these events.
Ohio is on the periphery of the New Madrid Seismic Zone, an area in Missouri and adjacent states that was the site of the largest earthquake sequence to occur in historical times in the continental United States.
Four great earthquakes were part of a series at New Madrid in 1811 and 1812. These events were felt throughout the eastern United States and were of sufficient intensity to topple chimneys in Cincinnati. Some estimates suggest that these earthquakes were in the range of 8.0 on the Richter scale.
A major earthquake centered near Charleston, S.C., in 1886 was strongly felt in Ohio. More recently, an earthquake with a Richter magnitude of 5.3 centered at Sharpsburg, Ky., in 1980 was strongly felt throughout Ohio and caused minor to moderate damage in communities near the Ohio River in southwestern Ohio.
In 1998, a 5.2-magnitude earthquake occurred in western Pennsylvania, just east of Ohio, and caused some damage in the epicentral area.
Three areas of the state appear to be particularly susceptible to seismic activity. Shelby County and surrounding counties in western Ohio have experienced more earthquakes than any other area of the state. At least 40 felt earthquakes have occurred in this area since 1875.
Two earthquakes in 1937, on March 2 and March 9, caused significant damage in the Shelby County community of Anna. The damage included toppled chimneys, cracked plaster, broken windows, and structural damage to buildings. The community school, of brick construction, was razed because of structural damage.
Northeastern Ohio has experienced at least 20 felt earthquakes since 1836. Most of these events were small and caused little or no damage. However, an earthquake Jan. 31, 1986, strongly shook Ohio and was felt in 10 other states and southern Canada.
This event had a Richter magnitude of 5.0 and caused minor to moderate damage, including broken windows and cracked plaster, in the epicentral area of Lake and Geauga counties.
Southeastern Ohio has been the site of at least 10 felt earthquakes with epicenters in the state since 1776.