Monday, April 17, 2006

Adirondack Earthquake Anniversaries – The 1931 Warren County Quake

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake. It also mark the April 20th anniversary of a 5.1 earthquake that struck near Ausable Forks in 2002 and still another anniversary – an almost forgotten earthquake that occurred in 1931.

At about 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, on April 20, 1931 the first shock hit. The shaking of the earth was severe in Warren County where hotels and other buildings swayed and local stores were rattled, their goods falling from the shelves. There were at least three shocks in all – local newspapers reported the trembling lasted nearly a minute each time.

Earthquakes are not uncommon in New York. According to the New York State Museum’s Geological Survey there have been more than 400 with a magnitude greater than 2.0 since the first was recorded near New York City in 1737. The shocks from that quake were felt as far as Boston, Philadelphia and in the Delaware Gap [more].

A large quake had struck along the St., Lawrence River and Lake Champlain in1877 and significant damage was reported near the epicenter and as far as Saratoga Springs where rumblings were heard and buildings trembled. Another quake was felt locally in 1897 with similar consequences. In 1916, four quakes were centered in Warren County; a large quake centered in Western New York was felt in five states in 1929 including locally.

The 1931 quake was centered near Warrensburg where more than 20 chimneys collapsed and the spire of a church was twisted, but the damage was widespread. Hague was shaken and residents of Lake George Village reported great rumblings and of hearing “a load roar that lasted several seconds.” Walls cracked in Glens Falls; windows were broken in Luzerne. The Postmaster of Whitehall reported dishes broken and the District Attorney in Saratoga reported that the ceiling of his office collapsed. Fearful residents of Ticonderoga fled from their shaking homes. R.L. Baker’s general store in New Russia, up in Essex County, shook considerably, rattling the goods on the shelves and the customer’s nerves. Shelves and homes were shaken in Lewis County and vibrations were felt in Vermont and Western Massachusetts, where a telephone pole snapped and crushed a car. The tremors were noticed as far east as Cambridge, Mass.

Everywhere in Warren County pendulum clocks stopped and chimneys collapsed. A landslide occurred on McCarthy Mountain overlooking the Hudson in Wevertown, a scar on the mountain that can still be traced from above. Luckily, no one was reported injured.


Suggested Reading

Geology of New York

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for more than 45 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John's Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on North Country Public Radio and on WSLP Lake Placid.

He is also on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute and edits The New York History Blog. He is the author of two books of regional history.




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