3.6 earthquake shakes Ontario, Downriver

Sarah Rahal Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
Amherstburg is east of Grosse Ile.

A small earthquake rattled parts of Ontario and southeast Michigan on Thursday night and sent startled residents outside and online looking for answers.

A magnitude 3.6 quake -- the largest in Michigan since 1947 -- originated near Amherstburg, Ontario, according to the United States Geological Survey, just across the Detroit River, about 15.5 miles south of Detroit, and was felt at least 40 miles away in parts of Downriver and Dearborn.

After the rumbles radiated across the region, those who felt it posted reaction on social media and websites, some saying they thought it was lightning, an explosion or a crash on an interstate.

“It was so weird & scary!” one user wrote on Twitter. “I heard a boom noise and then 3 seconds later I felt a tremor beneath my feet.”

The temblor occurred about 8 p.m., said Ian Lee, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“They’re relatively rare, but it’s not the first time there’s been an earthquake in the area,” Lee said. The last earthquake that struck Michigan — not counting the 2.0 quake that followed a meteor strike in Metro Detroit in January — was a 4.0 in Galesburg, near Kalamazoo on May 2, 2015, he said.

That event was “the largest quake in Michigan since 1947 and the second-largest in records dating back roughly a century,” said Larry Ruff, a University of Michigan professor and seismologist who studies large earthquakes around the world.

Michigan is not as prone to quakes as other states due to its geographic layout, said Eric Hetland, a geophysicist and associate professor in the UM Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

“Michigan is basically a big bathtub filled with sediments, which is the reason it has fewer earthquakes than surrounding regions,” he said.

The USGS considers 3-3.9 a minor earthquake, “felt quite noticeably by persons indoors, especially on upper floors of buildings,” according to its website. “Many people do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motor cars may rock slightly. Vibrations similar to the passing of a truck.”

Soon after the first trembling began, comments on CSEM-EMSC, an independent scientific organization and provider of real-time earthquake warnings, flooded the site.

“It was loud like thunder that kept rumbling not a lot of shaking just vibrating,” said a post from Amherstburg.

“Very loud, dogs freaked. Lasted maybe 30 seconds total,” said another post.

Remarks from Woodhaven said residents felt the quake in their homes. Residents from Trenton reported shaking for 30 seconds.

“I’ve been in a few Earthquakes from the Michigan fault line,” another post said. “This one felt different. We could hear it coming, before we felt it, which I don’t ever remember hearing before. Wife actually commented: “What’s that noise?” ... then we felt the tremor go through the house.”

The relative rarity of a quake alarmed many area residents.

One user likened the shaking to feeling “like someone hit the store with a truck.” Another wondered if the rumbles came from the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in southeast Michigan.

“The epicenter was a few KM from our house,” the user tweeted. “Very sharp and loud initial Bang. Followed by a minute or two of low booms and rumbles. Thought Fermi 2 blew up.”

The Monroe County plant is run by DTE Energy Co. The facility was not affected by the temblor, said Je’well Pearson, a utility spokeswoman. “It’s all quiet over here.”

Thursday’s heaving was the second uncommon disturbance to ripple through southeast Michigan in 2018.

A meteor hit Earth around 8:10 p.m. Jan. 16, sparking a 2.0 magnitude earthquake in the Detroit area, the USGS reported. Meteorite hunters soon went on a spree to find pieces of the fireball.