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October 17, 2012

Moving experience: Maine earthquake has Valley, NH all shook up

Jennifer DeJesus was ready to blame a fellow student last night for the strange vibrations she felt during her children’s literature class at Northern Essex Community College in Lawrence.

“I thought the girl behind me was shaking my desk,” DeJesus, 20, of Lawrence, recalled.

But when it became obvious that the fellow student had nothing to do with the commotion, DeJesus said she had a “frightening” feeling, “like the whole building was going to fall.”

DeJesus, like many residents throughout the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire, were all shook up by an earthquake that hit southern Maine at about 7:12 p.m.

The U.S. Geological Survey initially estimated the quake as a 4.6 magnitude, but later downgraded it to 4.0. The epicenter, about 3 miles west of Hollis Center, Maine, was about 3 miles deep. That location is about 20 miles west of Portland.

While earthquakes are rare in New England, they’re not unheard of, according to the Associated Press. In 2006 there was a series of earthquakes around Maine’s Acadia National Park, including one with a magnitude of 4.2 that caused boulders to fall from ledges onto Acadia National Park’s loop road. One of the park’s trails was closed for three years because of damage from the quake.

DeJesus said last night’s experience was moving enough that it led to her class being cut short about 30 minutes early.

“I didn’t feel it, but we got several dozen phone calls about it,” Methuen Police Lt. Kevin Martin said. “The phones were ringing off the hook for 10 minutes. People reported that the house shook or the walls shook. But nothing major,” he said.

Paul Witt, 42, of Sandown, N.H., said he was in his living room when he felt the familiar sounds and sensations that he did about 20 years ago when he was on vacation in California.

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