Thursday, February 5, 2009

Earthquake in Bethany, PA? ... NOT

My Google earthquake search turned up the item below. Bethany is 80 miles from the epicenter of the NJ earthquake reported two blogs back. I wonder how that rather small NJ earthquake could be felt at such a distance in Bethany, and even moreso, why the EMO would think Pennsylvanians would feel that quake 3 hours before it even happened?

Well, just to be sure, I checked the closest record on the LCSN network, from the BRNY station at Black Rock Forest, Cornwall, New York, 90 miles from Bethany, and I see nothing at 24 hours GMT, corresponding to the 7 pm local time mentioned. Perhaps too far away to sense a really small quake? But maybe it was the Martians after all?

click above for large image

Bethany On the Move
From the Mayor's Corner
Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Wayne Independent

Bethany is definitely on the Move! There's a whole lot of "moving and shaking" going on. Monday evening at approximately 7:00 p.m. the earth shook. At least it was on Bethany Hill, Old Wayne Street, Sugar Street, Spruce Street and on Wayne Street across from the library.

Coincidentally, at that time, a large boom and a burst of light transpired on Sugar Street. It was enough to make people come out of their homes on Sugar Street rush to the window, "and what to their wondering eyes should appear", but a huge flame, a light that shot up in the sky. Neighbors on Old Wayne Street came out in the snow to check their houses to see "what fell on their roofs. Could it have been a whole tree that fell on the roof and fallen to the ground? One citizen thought the plow had driven into his home! There was a mystery in Bethany.

Even though many citizens feel there are ghosts or spirits living in their homes, this noise and the feeling of the houses moving was a little too close for comfort! A second boom was felt, but much lighter in nature.

What could it be? One theory entertained was that perhaps the Martians had at last landed and we would see little people, "aliens" wandering around our borough. A resident called 911 and the police responded, we think... but if no one was hurt, and there were no accidents reported , there was nothing to investigate. We couldn't ALL be crazy! There was a lot of telephoning going on and together with the moving and the shaking, we accepted the fact that we actually did experience a strange phenomenon!

On television the next morning it was reported that "last evening in Morris Township, New Jersey, many people called in with reports of their houses shaking. " I called the Emergency Management Office, in the Wayne County Courthouse, and talked to the Director, Frank Smith.
He confirmed that there actually was an earthquake reported in New Jersey, and it traveled on the fault line to Bethany! We're in the news! But why the big light? And why would someone have a bon fire in the middle of a snow storm? Why would someone be burning a brush pile at night? Certainly a fire wouldn't start an earthquake!

When interviewed, one Bethany resident told me she saw a pig running down on Sugar Street not too many days before, and she wondered if "she was crazy". Now we're seeing lights and waiting for aliens to appear. Well, the pig, the lights and the earthquake are real! And rest assured, interested readers, that the "bumps in the night" are not visitors from another planet. We still have roughly 300 citizens of Bethany.. all earth dwellers, who are alive and well and feel quite contented to live in this happy little 999 square acres borough, bumps and all!
- Mayor Margaret Freeman


  1. This account contains several misconceptions about earthquakes that I have encountered before. One is that earthquakes "travel along fault lines," that is, you won't feel an earthquake unless you're located on the same fault that produced the quake. And, by the same token, if you do feel a quake, that means that the fault must run right through your location. Second, earthquakes can be felt at various places hours before (or after) they happen. This may seem like a preposterous idea, but folks often seem to not think very logically. Some years ago, when I was researching the 1954 Wilkes Barre "earthquake" (actually a mine collapse), I read several newspaper stories that reported that the seismograph at Fordham University had detected seismic activity several hours before the event in Wilkes Barre, and seemed to consider it very possible that what Fordham detected was the earthquake that had caused damage in Wilkes Barre. A third misconception is that earthquakes are accompanied by flashes of light. Actually, this is not completely "off the wall," because the phenomenon of "earthquake lights" has been reported, but only rarely, and only in association with very large-magnitude quakes. The desciption of the "booms" in Bethany does sound like it could be a local earthquake, but, considering the report of the bright flash of light, I think it most likely that someone was burning brush (or trash) and threw gasoline on the fire to make it burn faster. An "earthquake" that was reported in Lancaster County, PA, several years ago turned out to be exactly that.

  2. Interesting comment, Charlie. Makes you wonder what causes these particular misconceptions to arise and persist.

    By the way, I did find some USGS discussion of earthquake lights with references at


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