Magnitude 3.8 Earthquake Strikes Florida

A magnitude 3.8 earthquake struck Thursday morning at 11 a.m. EDT about two miles northwest of Mount Carmel, Fla. (USGS) Photo: Google Images, Caption:

Amidst a historically active hurricane season, Florida was thrown for a big surprise when a magnitude 3.8 earthquake struck its Alabama-Florida border on Thursday, September 3. There were no injuries or damage reported from the quake. According to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, hundreds reported feeling the quake. It occurred more than 6 miles beneath the surface, according to the Geological Survey, and was the first of the year in the state.

As of noon on Thursday, 30 people reported having felt the earthquake. Some shaking could possibly have been felt as far north as Montgomery, Alabama, according to the USGS’ interactive map. The epicenter of the quake was 3km north of Mount Carmel, Florida, near Pollard, Alabama, about 10 miles southwest of Brewton and occurred just after 11 a.m. EST. It could be felt along the Florida and Alabama state lines.

The quake was initially thought to be a 4.0, but was downgraded later to a 3.8.

Earthquakes in Florida are mostly limited to the Panhandle, according to Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the Geological Survey. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake happened just after 11 a.m. EDT and was centered about two miles northwest of Mount Carmel, Fla., located north of Pensacola.

Though the majority of Alabama’s earthquakes occur in the northern half of the state, there is a geologic zone running across south Alabama called the Bahamas Fracture Seismic Zone that produces some earthquake activity.

Earthquakes in Florida are very rare. Florida and North Dakota are the states with the fewest earthquakes, according to the USGS. Most earthquakes in North America east of the Rockies occur as faulting within bedrock, “usually miles deep,” says the USGS.

The earthquake in this area is so rare even the USGS was perplexed that it happened there.

The earthquake was tied for the 13th strongest quake in Alabama history, according to records kept by the Geological Survey of Alabama dating back to 1886. Despite this, the earthquake is still considered a light quake after all.

Alabama has 12 earthquakes on record stronger than Thursday’s quake and three others that were also recorded as magnitude 3.8. Ebersole said Thursday’s quake was the third reported in Alabama so far in 2020. The second strongest earthquake recorded in Alabama was a magnitude 4.9 quake centered in Escambia County in 1997. The strongest occurred in Shelby County in 1916, estimated at a 5.1-magnitude.

Earthquakes have occurred in Florida in the past, however, but are so infrequent they rarely get reported, much less are remembered by anyone. 

Florida’s last significant earthquake was among a series of quakes recorded in nearly the same location back in March of 2019, according to FOX13. In 2016, FOX13 reported that a series of earthquakes over the summer in Florida turned out to be the result of offshore naval weapons testing.

An earthquake is the shaking of the surface of the Earth resulting from a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere that creates seismic waves. Earthquakes are caused mostly by rupture of geological faults. Other events that may cause an earthquake are volcanic activity, landslides, mine blasts, and nuclear tests.  An earthquake’s point of initial rupture is called its hypocenter or focus. The epicenter is the point at ground level directly above the hypocenter.