Ten years ago today, the ground shook across the Commonwealth

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Happy Monday and welcome to another edition of Beyond The Forecast!

We’re taking a moment to look back at an event many of you probably remember: the 2011 Virginia earthquake. The epicenter was in Louisa County (south of Mineral) and the magnitude was 5.8 on the Richter Scale.

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The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) calls this event “America’s Most Widely Felt Earthquake.” Why? Well, there were nearly 150,000 reports of shaking, from Florida to eastern Canada and west to the Mississippi River Valley.

Luckily, no one was killed by the earthquake, but it did cause $200-300 million in damage. Notable structures that were damaged include the Washington Monument and the Washington National Cathedral.

(William Leith, USGS)

The USGS reports there were around 4,000 aftershocks in the wake of the Louisa County earthquake.

They’ve learned that the Appalachian Mountains enhanced the shaking northeast of the epicenter. A similar pattern was observed in August 2020 during the Sparta, NC earthquake.

This was the first earthquake with a magnitude of 5 or higher in Virginia since 1897.

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Fun fact: that 1897 earthquake happened in our viewing area! It was slightly weaker, a 5.6 magnitude, and the epicenter was in Giles County (near Pearisburg).

The map below shows all earthquakes in Virginia since 1812. You see that they’re not all that rare in the Commonwealth!

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The 5 magnitude threshold is important because that’s when we really start to feel earthquakes and see damage from them.

The highest magnitude earthquake ever recorded in the Eastern U.S. was in Charleston in August 1886. That one reached 7 on the Richter Scale and killed more than 100 people.

Below, you’ll see where the Mineral and Pearisburg quakes fell on the Richter Scale.

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Do you have an earthquake plan for your family? If not, it may be a good idea to take part in an upcoming earthquake drill.

The Great SouthEast ShakeOut is coming up on October 21 at 10:21 a.m. It will be one of the biggest earthquake drills in history.

Switching gears to your forecast, it appears August will go out on a summery note with many days in the 90s for highs! Meteorologist Chris Michaels has your zone-by-zone forecast in our daily weather article.

You can always get specific forecast details for your zone, whether it’s the Roanoke Valley, Lynchburg area, the New River Valley or elsewhere around Southwest and Central Virginia, anytime at WSLS.com/weather. Know your zone!

In case you missed it, we’re posting great weather and science content on WSLS.com. Here are a few links from the past week to check out:

If you prefer your weather information delivered by social media, you can follow Your Local Weather Authority on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also keep up with me on social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, follow along!

-- Justin McKee

About the Author:

Justin McKee presents the weather forecast on 10 News Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 8 a.m. He also fills in for other meteorologists during the week.