An earthquake measuring only 1.7 Ml shook many residents on Roosevelt Island, the Upper East Side, and Astoria, Queens on January 2, 2024.
A loud boom and shaking was reported at 5:45 AM. Many people reported their high rise apartment buildings shuddered, and they feared it was a bomb or a transformer explosion. Others noted “thud” sounds, even multiple ones. Local news reporting in the morning noted that fire crews and the power company were investigating and didn’t know what the “explosion” could have been. No one lost power. The media was slow to pick up on the earthquake recording published nearly immediately by the USGS. I suppose it’s not something they are used to.
These small quakes often cause booming noises that people mistake for explosions, though many people did suspect it was a rare earthquake. Obviously, there was no damage from the event. While many people slept through it, others called 911. Over 300 people reported to the USGS that they felt the quake, particularly on Roosevelt Island, about a mile from the stated epicenter. The tall buildings there are anchored in denser bedrock, which transmits the vibrations. The higher buildings will react to the small motion. So, people living in high rise apartments were more likely to feel it.
Unfortunately, any mystery boom report brings out the smart asses who suggest some other outrageous cause like an underground nuclear explosion, a secret weapon, or the end of the world. Don’t read the comments on various social media posts about the quakes.
While there are faults and small-to-moderate occasional quakes in the northeast, none of the fault system build up enough stress to cause a significant quake like that of Japan the day before. The events are unrelated.