4.0 earthquake strikes in northeast Ohio
Originally published December 31, 2011 at 2:58 p.m., updated December 31, 2011 at 5:17 p.m.
McDONALD, Ohio (AP) — The latest in a series of minor earthquakes in northeast Ohio hit on Saturday, sending some stunned residents running for cover as bookshelves shook and pictures and lamps fell from tables.
The 4.0 magnitude quake struck Saturday afternoon in McDonald, outside of Youngstown, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Area residents said a loud boom accompanied the shaking, but sheriff's dispatchers from several counties in the area said there were no immediate reports of damage.
A few miles from the epicenter, Charles Kihm said he was preparing food in his kitchen when he heard a noise and thought a vehicle had hit his Austintown home.
"It really shook, and it rumbled, like there was a sound," said Kihm, 82. "It was loud. It didn't last long. But it really scared me."
The area has experienced at least 10 minor quakes in 2011, though Saturday's temblor appeared to be stronger than others, which generally had a magnitude of 2.7 or lower. This time, some residents reported feeling trembling farther south into Columbiana County and east into western Pennsylvania.
Many of the quakes have struck near an injection well used to dispose of brine water that's a byproduct of oil and gas drilling. Thousands of gallons of brine are injected into the well daily, and much of it is shipped in from out of state.
Its owner, Northstar Disposal Services LLC, has agreed to stop injecting brine into the earth as a precaution while authorities assess any potential links to the quakes. The head of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said research hadn't led to a direct correlation with the injections but officials wouldn't gamble with public safety.
There are 177 similar injection wells around the state, and the Youngtown-area well has been the only site with seismic activity, the department said.
Patti Gorcheff, who lives about 15 miles from the epicenter, said her dogs started barking inexplicably Saturday and the ornaments on her Christmas tree began to shake. Her husband thought he heard the sound of some sort of blast.
"This is the biggest one we've had so far," said Gorcheff, a North Lima resident who has raised concerns about quakes and drilling-related activity in the region. "I hope this is a wake-up call."
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