Department of Emergency Management and Security
What It Is
An earthquake is a shaking of the ground that can cause damage to buildings and infrastructure. Following an earthquake, fire is a significant risk due to gas leaks and water pressure failures.
Earthquake strength is described by the Richter Scale, which measures amplitude on a logarithmic basis – meaning that each whole number correlates to a 10-fold increase in earthquake amplitude, or a 30-fold increase in total energy released. Earthquakes below 5 on the Richter scale may be felt but rarely cause damage; earthquakes of 9 and up cause complete regional devastation.
For context, the 2011 Virginia earthquake rated 5.9 on the Richter Scale; the 1995 Northridge, California earthquake 6.7; the 2017 Mexico City earthquake 8.2; the 2011 Fukushima, Japan earthquake 9.1.
Virginia is one of 45 states or territories in the US at risk of earthquakes.