As far as natural disasters go, earthquakes tend to be far from the minds of Lehigh Valley residents. That is, of course, until a recent 4.0 magnitude earthquake in Maine brought the possibility closer to home.
That earthquake, as well as the one last year in Virginia, have several Lehigh Valley residents questioning whether an earthquake of similar magnitude could possible hit the Lehigh Valley.
So, could the Lehigh Valley experience an earthquake?
It's not very likely, says Dr. Larry Malinconico, associate professor of Geology and Geophysics at Lafayette College in Easton.
"The fact of the matter is that earthquakes tend to occur at active tectonic margins," said Malinconico. "The recent earthquake occurred on old faults that are reactivated for some reason, but it's rare."
While the Lehigh Valley does have some old fault lines, Malinconico says any activity along these lines would be extremely rare. "These local fault lines are from hundreds of millions of years ago. Any activity along these lines are fairly scattered."
That's not to say that the Lehigh Valley has been immune to earthquakes throughout history. The U.S. Geological Survey reports a few small to midsize earthquakes in our area, the last one of moderate magnitude hitting Sept 14, 1961.
As far as natural disasters go, Malinconico says that earthquakes should be near the bottom of our list.
"The biggest [natural disaster concerns for the valley] is flooding," he said, citing the recent flooding from Hurricane Irene as an example. "Earthquakes are nothing to worry about from a short-term or long-term perspective."