Japan disaster renews NJ quake concerns

March 16, 2011 3:40:56 PM PDT
Parts of New Jersey have felt the jolt of minor earthquakes in the past few years, but nothing really serious or damaging.

Is that about to change?

? "I am worried about it because you just don't know if it will happen. It could happen here," said Judy Brown of Plainsboro, N.J.

? Watching the pictures from Japan clearly has some people worried. But experts say that kind of devastating earthquake has a very low possibility of happening here.

? Dr. Karl Muessig, a geologist with the state of New Jersey, says history shows every 50 to 100 years NJ has an earthquake with a magnitude of about 5.5 , which can do some damage.

? "We're probably overdue for that magnitude quake," Muessig said.

But what typically happens here are smaller quakes in the 2s and 3s--like this one in Pennsville in July 2009 that caused minimal damage.

The geologist says there are a lot of small faults in NJ.? The Ramapo Fault in north Jersey is the largest of all but hasn't moved in millions of years.

"We're not sitting in an active plate margin where two pieces of the Earth's crust are either pushing together or pulling apart. We're in the middle of a stable plate, it's very quiet," he said.

As for the threat of a tsunami here? Muessig says the nearest active plate zone that could trigger one is thousands of miles offshore in the Atlantic.

"By the time it got to the Jersey coast you probably wouldn't see any unusual wave activity," Muessig said.

Predicting earthquakes is next to impossible and with the magnitude we typically see here in NJ scientists say you probably shouldn't lose any sleep waiting for the next one.

RELATED: Search the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) site to see if loved ones in the quake zone have checked in to say they are okay

RELATED: To help, visit www.redcross.org and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the recovery effort

RELATED: Watch videos of the earthquake and tsunami as they happened in Japan

Emergency Information

For emergency information, assistance, and locating family in connection with earthquake in Japan: http://www.facebook.com/l/6b2e3a9CLMNbUwBsOw1jOL8d5aw/www.jhelp.com

Phone numbers in US and Japan:

202 559 4683
800 373 1110
0570 000 911
011 81 90 7170 4769
011 81 90 3080 6711