- Eric Ginsberg of Merrick was in his garage
at about noon yesterday when he heard a low, eerie rumbling and saw water
splash out of his fish tank. At the same time in Seaford, Chris Lyon thought
someone was trying to walk in on him in the bathroom when the doorknob
started jiggling before "a tremor went through the house."
Another 36 people called Nassau's Seventh Precinct and 911 operators with
similar stories early yesterday afternoon, convinced an earthquake had
hit Long Island. But scientists at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
of Columbia University in Palisades, N.Y., said their instruments recorded
no seismic activity yesterday. And local police, transportation and utility
officials said no significant explosion or similar event happened in or
around the approximate five-mile stretch through Seaford, Merrick and Bellmore
where residents felt their homes shake. "There is nothing there that
you would call a local earthquake. It's got to be something else or it's
got to be so small that it wouldn't be recorded," said Arthur Lerner-Lam,
director of seismology at the observatory. Lerner-Lam said it is "strange"
that while his lab's seismograph recorded no earth-moving activity, so
many people locally felt the earth shake. He said the seismograph might
not detect a tremor lower than a 1 but usually a quake that low would not
be felt by such a large group of people.
Lerner-Lam suggested absent an explosion or accident that would have been
accounted for by authorities, a sonic boom from an aircraft or off-shore
military activity could have caused the shaking. Donald Weidner, a geophysics
professor at the State University at Stony Brook, said quakes can occur
anywhere as "the earth shifts and rumbles." "They are not
very often and they are not of a very big magnitude, two or three [on the
Richter scale] maybe," he said. The last time a significant earthquake
jiggled Long Island was seven years ago when East Enders felt a quake measuring
2.8 that hit just off the coast of Montauk, Weidner said. At 6:07 a.m.
on Oct. 19, 1985, a tremor that measured 4.0 on the Richter scale was centered
in Westchester County and shook up residents as far away as Philadelphia.
The largest recorded quake to ever hit this area happened in 1884, when
vibrations reached 5.0 on the Richter, shaking houses and rattling windows.
After police received calls from frightened residents yesterday, the Nassau
police emergency management division got involved, but when patrol cars
went out to investigate the area south of Merrick Road, officers found
no telltale signs of a quake. But residents say it was real. "I know
it sounds really kooky, but . . . we live on a road where trucks don't
travel," said Lyon, a videotape technician. "It was kind of strange.
The doorknob was moving and the house was shaking."
- Copyright 1999, Newsday Inc.