October 17, 2012

'Light' Maine quake makes big impression

Folks across the region see, feel and hear the 4.0 magnitude quake with an epicenter near Hollis Center.

By Tom Bell tbell@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Standing on the sidelines at a soccer game in Waterboro Tuesday night, Kevin St. Jarre saw the spectators in the bleachers across the field suddenly stand up. Then a ripple, a "landwave," began rolling from the bleachers and heading toward him.

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EPICENTER OF QUAKE

43.592°N, 70.676°W

3 miles W of Hollis Center
13 miles NW of Biddeford
13 miles NW of Saco
13 miles WNW of West Scarborough

Depth: 4.1 miles

DID YOU FEEL IT? Report your location when the earthquake occurred.

FOR MORE details, summary, maps, click to the US Geological Service webpage.

"It came across the field, and it passed beneath my feet and then behind me to where the team was sitting on the bench," said St. Jarre, who coaches the Massabesic High School varsity girls, who were playing against Scarborough High School.

"We pulled the players off the field and took a five minute break and calmed the girls down."

That ripple came from an earthquake four miles below the earth and centered about four miles west of Hollis Center, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It struck at 7:12 p.m. and lasted a few seconds. It registered 4.0 in magnitude, which put it in the category of a "light" earthquake.

But the rumble was big enough to become the one thing that everyone wanted to talk about, bigger even than the "johns list" of the Zumba instructor or the scheduled 9 p.m. presidential debate that could change the course of the nation.

So many people all at once called their friends and relatives that some cell phone users couldn't get through because the system couldn't handle the volume.

Rachel LePauloue, 44, of Dayton, said her house shook for a few seconds.

"I thought my furnace was going to blow," she said.

She said the quake caused some knickknacks to tumble off shelves in her basement.

Eric Blanchard, 79, of Freeport, said he has never felt anything like it. He was preparing to watch the presidential debate when the "house shook under me."

He used to live in New York City, and the quake felt just like incoming train in the city's subway system, he said.

John Staples, 65, who lives in a solid brick townhouse on Portland's West End, said the floors began trembling and the walls vibrating.

"It was It was kind of scary," he said.

Sanford Town Hall was evacuated when the earthquake shook the building. The Town Council meeting resumed after about 15 minutes.

In Waterboro, about 20 customers and staff at Waterboro House of Pizza ran outside when they heard a loud bang and the building shook.

"It was loudest bang you ever heard in your life. We actually thought it was an explosion of some type," said owner Jessica Hill. "The back door and door to the basement blew open."

Dispatchers for the York County Sheriff's Office and Cumberland County Sheriff's Office received numerous calls from the public, but there were no reports of damage.

The earthquake was felt throughout New England and eastern New York state.

"The house was shaking," said Jim Rivis of Montpelier, Vt.

Former Maine resident Victoria Brett felt the quake in Northampton, Mass.

"At first, it felt like something slowly wiggling the outside walls of the house. Then the table and floor started vibrating. I looked around and the water in the glass flower vase looked like a wave pool. I knew right away it was an earthquake," she said.

Because of New England's geology is older and less fractured than in the West Coast, even a light earthquake can be felt for hundreds of miles, said Susan Hoover, a geophysicist with USGS.

"It's like a bright, brass bell. The noise just carries," she said.

Earthquakes in Maine are rare because there are no active tectonic boundaries in the region.

This was the fifth earthquake that has occurred within 200 kilometers of Hollis since the early 1970s, according to the USGS.

Maine gets about five earthquakes a year, according to the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at

tbell@pressherald.com

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