On January 31, 1986, many northeastern Ohio residents were startled into the realization that this aea is seismically active; historically, the region has the second highest frequency of earthquake activity of any area of the state. Only Shelby County and vicinity in western Ohio have experienced more earthquakes in historic times. The 1986 northeastern Ohio earthquake has the distinction of being the most intensively studied Ohio earthquake, the first earth quake in the state for which injuries were recorded, and the nearest earthquake to a nuclear power plant in the United States. The 1986 event ranks as probably the third largest earthquake in Ohio.

Isoseismal map for the January 31, 1986, northeastern Ohio earthquake. Compiled by Carl Stover, U.S. Geological Survey.

The January 31st earthquake struck just before 11:47 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. Although early media speculation had the epicenter located from Columbus to southern Canada, the U.S. Geological Survey quickly determined that the epicenter was east of Cleveland, and within a few hours the epicenter had been accurately located in southern Lake County just north of the Geauga-Lake County line. This Richter magnitude 4.96 (commonly rounded to 5.0) event was felt in parts of 11 states, the District of Columbia, and southern Ontario. Most of Ohio and western Pennsylvania experienced particularly strong vibrations that were noted by numerous individuals. The Division of Geological Survey received hundreds of telephone calls in the hours after the earthquake as did numerous federal, state, and local agencies.

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