A magnitude 5.9 earthquake rattled residents of central Virginia and Washington, D.C. in the early afternoon hours of Aug. 23. The Washington Post reports the epicenter was near Mineral, Va., in between Richmond and Charlottesville. Despite the fact that most major huge earthquakes happen along the west coast of the United States, nearly half of the United States is considered seismically active.
Here’s a brief glance into some major fault zones in the United States that see frequent earthquake activity. From South Carolina to Alaska, fault zones occur all over North America and make life for its residents rather shaky at times.
San Andreas Fault, California
Perhaps the most recognizable fault zone in the United States in the San Andreas Fault Zone in western California. The fault stretches from southern California and then goes into the Pacific Ocean up along the coast of central and northern parts of the state. Prominent quakes along the fault include the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the Loma Prieta earthquake Oct. 17, 1989.
New Madrid Fault, Missouri
The New Madrid Fault is an area of seismic activity in extreme southeastern Missouri in the five-state region of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. The most famous and disastrous tremors in this region occurred over a three-month span between December 1811 and February 1812. Four earthquakes rocked the area, all believed to be 7.0 or greater on the Richter scale.
Eagle Bay Fault, Wyoming
Eagle Bay Fault in Wyoming occurs in the northwestern part of the state near the border with Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone National Park is also famous for its seismic activity as geysers push up from underneath the ground. A gigantic caldera of volcanic activity sits beneath the surface of Yellowstone that produces regular tremors and superheated water on the surface of many lakes in the region.
Woodstock Fault, South Carolina
The Woodstock Fault in southeastern South Carolina was responsible for the massive earthquake that killed 60 people in Charleston in 1886. As much as $23 million in damage was reported when chimneys fell apart and window panes cracked in the Palmetto State. The fault exists northwest of the city inland from the coast. Another fault line is in northwestern South Carolina that has show seismic activity since European settlers moved into the area.
Denali Fault, Alaska
The Denali Fault in Alaska had a 7.9 magnitude earthquake Nov. 3, 2002. Because of the remoteness of the tremor, no one died as a result. Several avalanches and rock slides resulted from the powerful shaking. Lakes in Texas and Louisiana had seismic seiches or waves of standing water that occurred thousands of miles away from the epicenter of the huge quake. The Aleutian Megathrust is the other prominent producer of earthquakes in Alaska.