Could a devastating earthquake like the one depicted in the recently released Hollywood disaster movie “San Andreas” happen in Maine?

Not likely, says the state’s top geologist, Robert Marvinney, who took the unusual step last week of issuing a news release that he hopes will put Mainers’ minds at ease.

Marvinney, the state geologist and director of the Maine Geological Survey, said that while he has not seen the film, its release May 29 offered an opportunity to educate the state about the likelihood of a magnitude 9.1 earthquake occurring in Maine.

In the movie, which stars former pro wrestler turned actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the earthquake was reported as the largest in recorded history. The monster quake rips apart major cities that lie above the San Andreas Fault in California and causes a tsunami.

Marvinney said people saw the movie and started calling him with questions.

“I got some phone calls,” Marvinney said. “Most people aren’t worried. They just want to know if this could happen in Maine. I told them we are not set up geologically for an earthquake on this scale.”


Marvinney said it’s rare that his office issues news releases. The one he sent out last week is titled “Could the Earthquake Disaster in the San Andreas Movie Happen in Maine?”

“It is no secret that the 2015 Hollywood action thriller ‘San Andreas’ depicts an imaginary event. And yet Mainers know little enough about earthquakes that they might wonder how much of it could be real,” Marvinney said.

“It is true that earthquakes are fundamentally unpredictable, powerful and uncontrollable natural events. Just add a little fear and uncertainty to get a classic combination for a Hollywood thriller. The answer to the question in the title (of the news release) is no. Maine is geologically old, and while it does have a moderate level of widespread earthquake activity, it does not have active faults like the San Andreas. In fact, the two magnitude 9 earthquakes that happen in the movie are not even possible on the real San Andreas Fault in California.”

However, Marvinney said that Maine is not immune to earthquakes.

The August 2011 magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Mineral, Virginia, could be felt as far away as Portland. It was the largest earthquake to have occurred east of the Rocky Mountains since 1887.

Marvinney said an October 2012 earthquake that was recorded as a magnitude 4 shook the ground and buildings in New Hampshire as well as in York County. The U.S. Geological Survey determined the epicenter of that earthquake was about 3 miles west of Hollis Center. It was felt as far away as Vermont, New Hampshire, eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

For more information about earthquakes, go to the Maine Geological Survey website. There is an earthquake link that has fact sheets on several topics, including an explanation of cryoseisms (frost quakes), and earthquakes that were felt a few years ago in Bar Harbor and Bucksport.


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