December 10, 2020 | Number of The Day
Best guess as to number of earthquakes in NJ since 1783

The recorded history of earthquakes in New Jersey starts off with a bang (sorry) on Nov. 29, 1783, when a quake with an estimated magnitude of 5.3 was felt from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania. It remains the strongest earthquake to shake the state — more precisely, the Province of New Jersey — although it failed to rouse George Washington who was sleeping at Fraunces Tavern in New York City at the time. There’s no evidence that the father of our country was sleeping one off at the time.

Since then, there have been about 99 subsequent quakes.  It’s odd that this number isn’t specified with more precision: After all, an earthquake should be pretty hard to miss and thus fairly easy to count. The most recent quake occurred just before 7:00 a.m. on December 3, 2020 — a 2.51-magnitude event centered in Milford. Those who doubt the veracity of this information are free to decode data supplied by the United States Geological Survey: M 2.1 – 0 km ENE of Milford, New Jersey | 2020-12-03 11:55:20 (UTC) | 40.572°N 75.084°W | 2.0 km depth.

The USGS also has a wealth of features for the earthquake entranced, including a tool that lets visitors indicate whether they felt a particular, an interactive map that can display all the seismic activity in the world for the preceding month and a signup form for an email newsletter to keep you apprised of earthquakes where and when they happen.

Closer to home, the NJDEP’s Division of Water Supply and Geoscience offers a wealth of information, ranging from the basic “What Is an Earthquake” to the more pressing “What to Do During an Earthquake.” If you’re in your car, “Watch traffic, other drivers may be disoriented, or out of control.”

Then again, this DEP site lists more than 200 earthquakes “epicentered” in New Jersey since 1783, which doesn’t do much for coming up with an accurate count.