In New York City, earthquakes are generally tiny, and unnoticed.

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New Yorkers have felt tremors before.

In January, a 1.7 magnitude earthquake was recorded in Astoria, Queens, early in the morning, jolting awake residents who rushed outside and waited anxiously for firefighters to arrive.

Last April, a 3.6 magnitude earthquake rocked the town of Adams Center, N.Y., and a month later, a 2.2 magnitude earthquake rattled parts of New York and New Jersey.

In 2011, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Virginia led to the evacuation of City Hall and Midtown office buildings in Manhattan.

But while the area actually experiences numerous tiny earthquakes every year, they usually go unnoticed, according to geologists. Even 3.0-magnitude earthquakes — which rarely cause significant damage — are not unusual for the area, according to geologists.

The magnitude-4.8 earthquake recorded in Lebanon, N.J., that shook buildings across the New York City region on Friday morning, though, was an unsettling reminder of the fault lines that run through the area.

It was nearly as powerful as the 5.2 magnitude quake that hit Coney Island in 1884, which caused bricks to fall and plaster to crack.

Horses neighed in terror, dogs stared into space, transfixed by the tremors, and in Central Park, an Egyptian obelisk “trembled from apex to pedestal,” according to a New York Times article dated Aug. 11, 1884.

The obelisk remained in place and no one was seriously injured. But the event caused some to question the wisdom of constructing skyscrapers in the city.

“If we are going to have earthquakes as regular visitors, we shall have to get rid of the tall buildings,” said one official, according to the 1884 article. “If one of them gets cracked by a shock, it will tumble down sure.”

As of Friday morning, none of the city’s skyscrapers appeared to be in danger.

The X account for the Empire State Building was among the first to provide a status update after the earthquake struck around 10:20 a.m.: “I AM FINE.”

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.



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