Weather for the Following Location: Chattanooga on Map

Could an Earthquake of the Magnitude that hit the Northeast Friday happen in Chattanooga?

Earthquake preparation drills concept.

Could an Earthquake of the Magnitude that hit the Northeast Friday happen in Chattanooga?

Unprecedented Seismic Activity Startles Northeast

A shocking 4.8 magnitude earthquake was felt in the New York City region, spanning all the way to parts of the Northeast in the early hours of Friday. The quake, confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Centre, was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks, including a substantial 4.0 magnitude quake in New Jersey. The seismic activity caused a ripple of fear and concern across a region unaccustomed to the Earth shaking underfoot. Meanwhile, residents as far away as Baltimore and Massachusetts-New Hampshire reported feeling the tremors.

Potential for Similar Quake in Chattanooga Debated

This unprecedented seismic event in the Northeast raises questions closer to home: could an earthquake of similar magnitude happen in Chattanooga? Only last week, a minor 2.0 magnitude earthquake was identified near the Tennessee-Georgia border in Bradley County, as reported by the USGS. While such tremors are relatively common and often go unnoticed, Friday’s event in the Northeast has brought the topic of seismic activity and earthquake preparedness into the local spotlight.

The Expert’s Viewpoint

Dr. Jennifer Taylor, Professor of Geology at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga (UTC), has sought to allay local concerns. “Today’s earthquake was pretty unusual,” she explains. “Just because we’ve had an earthquake on the East Coast recently, doesn’t mean there’s going to be more, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to be more intense.”

Referring to the recent minor quake in Bradley County, Dr. Taylor further clarifies, “The earthquake that occurred last week was small enough that, maybe if you were sitting really still, you could have felt it. But these earthquakes happen all the time. And most of the time, we don’t even notice.” Historical records reveal that the most powerful earthquake recorded in East Tennessee was a 4.7-magnitude quake in 1973.

Is Chattanooga at Risk?

Despite the heightened awareness that comes with seismic events, Dr. Taylor does not anticipate an increase in frequency or intensity of earthquakes in the region. “I don’t think we’re going to have more frequent earthquakes. I think this is just kind of an unusual circumstance,” she says.

According to Dr. Taylor, Chattanooga’s geographical location plays a significant role in mitigating the risk of larger earthquakes. “Along the West coast of the United States, there’s a lot of big faults. It’s an active tectonic plate boundary. And we don’t have any of that here on the East Coast,” she assures.

USGS Statistics on Major Earthquakes

USGS data since 1950 reveals that there have been approximately 20 earthquakes with a magnitude above 4.5. Given this relatively low frequency, significant seismic activity remains a rare event. As such, while minor earthquakes in East Tennessee like the recent 2.0 magnitude tremor might continue to occur, major quakes of the kind that rocked the Northeast last Friday remain unlikely, according to the experts.


While the likelihood of experiencing a major earthquake in Chattanooga remains low, regional seismic activity remains a topic of interest for scientists and residents alike. The recent Northeast quakes, while causing concern, have offered an opportunity to reinforce knowledge and preparedness around earthquakes.

Leave a Reply

Sign up for our Newsletter