The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Weak earthquake shook northern Maryland on Tuesday night

People reported feeling it in the D.C. area, including inside the Beltway

Quake reports to the U.S. Geological Survey. (USGS)

A tiny earthquake struck near the town of Sykesville, in northern Maryland, on Tuesday night. The tremor was centered about 20 miles west of Baltimore and 30 miles north of Washington.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the weak quake was rated magnitude 2, and that it occurred at a depth of 3.1 miles.

Hundreds of people reported feeling the earthquake, which struck at 11:49 p.m. All but one report to the USGS categorized the shaking as “weak.” This is the lowest shake rating in a scale that spans across nine categories, peaking at “very heavy.”

While most of the reports of shaking were within a few miles of the epicenter, shaking was felt as far away as the Front Royal and Chantilly areas. It was also noticed inside the Beltway in Annandale, Bethesda and Silver Spring.

WTOP relayed word of a few calls to 911 from residents of Howard County who “heard a boom or felt a rumble.”

There were no reports of damage. “Damage does not usually occur until the earthquake magnitude reaches somewhere above 4 or 5,” the USGS wrote. Whether a weak quake causes damage depends on soil type and other localized factors.

The late-night quake was the first to strike the area since Aug. 18, 2021, when a magnitude 1.7 struck near Woodlawn on the outskirts of Baltimore. Across the broader Washington-Baltimore region, about one quake of this intensity might be expected per year. It is also common to go several years without one.

Almost all earthquakes in the region are similarly weak, with most unnoticed by residents. Last year marked the 10th anniversary of a 5.8 earthquake that rocked the Mid-Atlantic. It struck near Mineral, Va., on Aug. 23, 2011, and was the strongest east of the Rocky Mountains since 1944.

Remembering the 2011 Virginia earthquake that rocked the Eastern U.S.