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History of Earthquakes Felt in Detroit and Michigan

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Updated August 31, 2011

Even though the state is categorized as having a very low hazard risk for earthquakes, Michigan does experience earthquakes. In fact, several earthquakes have been felt in Detroit and Michigan, especially within a strip of land along the southern border of the Lower Peninsula.

Earthquakes With Epicenter in Michigan

While a lot of the earthquakes to shake the state often originate along faults outside of it, there have been earthquakes with epicenters within Michigan. One of the strongest was documented in 1905 on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula, where it was felt as an intensity VII.

The largest earthquake within the state, at least according to the U.S. Geological Survey, originated in South-Central Michigan in 1947, where it was felt as an intensity VI and caused damage in an area southeast of Kalamazoo. Ground shake was felt as far away as Cleveland, Ohio; Cadillac, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois; and Muncie, Indiana.

Other earthquakes with epicenters in Michigan include:

  • 1872: Wenona
  • 1877: Redford and Greenfield Village
  • 1883: Kalamazoo (felt as intensity VI)
  • 1905: Menominee (felt as intensity V)
  • 1906 & 1909: Lake Superior

Out-of-State Earthquakes to Shake the State

The rigid nature of the bedrock that runs throughout the Midwest allows seismic waves to travel to areas far and away, often over state lines. The bigger the magnitude, the farther away the earthquake can be felt. This means that the epicenter of an earthquake doesn't have to occur in Michigan for it to cause ground shake here.

For example, faults within the New Madrid Seismic Zone were responsible for a series of earthquakes in 1811 and 1812 that managed to shake the ground in Michigan. In fact, ground shake in Detroit from the earthquakes was felt as a V on the Mercalli Earthquake Intensity Scale, a measure of Seismic intensity.

Other Earthquakes Felt in Michigan

  • 1870: An earthquake originated in the Saint Lawrence Valley in between Montreal and Quebec in Canada.
  • 1886: An earthquake originated in Charleston, South Carolina, where it registered a magnitude 7.3 and was felt as intensity X. In Detroit, it was felt as an intensity II-III, while in Chicago it was felt as an intensity V.
  • 1895: A major earthquake originated in Charleston, Missouri.
  • 1925: An earthquake originated in the St. Lawrence River region in Quebec, Canada. It was felt in Grand Rapids as an intensity V.
  • 1935: An earthquake registering 6.1 on the magnitude scale originated in Timiskaming, Quebec. Ground shake was felt in Mt. Clemens and Port Huron as an intensity V.
  • 1937: An earthquake registering 5.4 on the magnitude scale originated in western Ohio, where it was felt as an intensity VIII.
  • 1944: An earthquake originated in the St. Lawrence River Region in Massena, New York and was felt in Detroit.
  • 1968: An earthquake registering 5.4 on the magnitude scale originated in South-Central Illinois, where it was felt as an intensity VII. It was felt in 23 states, including intensity I to III in Detroit and Michigan.
  • 1975: An earthquake registering 6.2 on the magnitude scale originated in eastern Idaho, where it was felt as an intensity VIII.
  • 1980: An earthquake registering 5.2 on the magnitude scale originated in northeast Kentucky, where it was felt as an intensity VII. It was felt as an intensity II-III in southern Michigan.
  • 1983: An earthquake registering 5.3 on the magnitude scale originated in the Blue Mountain Lake area of New York, where it was felt as an intensity VI. Detroit was on the outer edge of the area affected by the earthquare and experienced it as an intensity II-III.
  • 1987: An earthquake registering 5.1 on the magnitude scale originated in Olney, Illinois.
  • 1998: An earthquake registering 5.2 on the magnitude scale originated in Pennsylvania, just east of Cleveland.
  • 2000: An earthquake registering 5.2 on the magnitude scale originated in Kipawa, Quebec.
  • 2008: An earthquake registering 5.4 on the magnitude scale originated in southeast Illinois on April 18th. It was felt as an intensity II-IV at various locations in and around Detroit.

Recent Activity

The last earthquake in Michigan occurred on September 2nd, 1994 outside of Lansing and registered 3.5 on the magnitude scale.

The most significant earthquakes to occur near Michigan in 2011 originated in Arkansas (magnitude 4.7) on February 28th, 2011 and Virginia (magnitude 5.8) on August 23rd. The Virginia earthquake was felt in various placed around Detroit as Intensity II-III.

Sources and More Information:

  1. About.com
  2. Local
  3. Detroit
  4. Neighborhoods & Real Estate
  5. Earthquakes in Detroit and Michigan - History of Earthquakes in Detroit and Michigan

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