On this day, Jan 15th, 1994: Two 4+ Magnitude Earthquakes shake Berks

Two earthquakes – the first measuring 4.0 on the Richter Scale and the second recorded at 4.6 – shook the Berks County area Saturday night. The quakes are believed to be the largest ever recorded in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, according to officials.

The Associated Press reported that shocks from the second quake were supposedly felt as far north as New York City and as far east as Philadelphia and as far south as Baltimore.

Officials said the first quake hit about 7:43 p.m., and the second struck at 8:49 p.m. The epicenter of both is believed by officials to be in the Wyomissing Hills area. Waverly Person, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Information Center at the U.S. Geological Survey in Boulder, Colo., confirmed that instruments recorded the 4.6 figure.

His colleague, John Minsch, said the same instruments got the 4.0 reading on the first quake. Minsch said Saturday night that Berks residents could expect several aftershocks.

The first quake caused a water main break at the Victoria Crossing development in Spring Township. The second triggered a reported water main break in the Kenhorst area.

UGI Utilities Inc. officials reported responding to a minor natural gas leak in the 1300 block of Garfield Avenue in Wyomissing.

Streets department crews in Reading said they found a crack in the 1700 block of Fairview street and one in the 600 block of Clinton Street.

Several residents in the western sector of the county reported cracks in ceilings, furniture moving, dishes falling from china closets, and pictures dropping off walls.

In the downtown area, tall buildings shook, including the Berks County Courthouse, where dispatchers for the Berks County Communications Center on the 18 th floor were flooded with calls on the 9-1-1 emergency system from people clamoring for information.

City and Wyomissing police departments also reported that their phones were jammed. Several area telephone exchanges were slowed by thousands of callers trying to reach loved ones or friends.

The second quake hit with more intensity than the first, according to Dr. Charles K. Scharnberger, a Millersville University geologist, who reported that it knocked the pen off his seismographic equipment at the Lancaster County campus some 35 miles from Reading.

“We really didn’t get a good record of it,” Scharnberger said. “We had about the first 30 seconds of it and then the pen hit the edge of the drum and went off the paper.

“I’d say it was at _least 4.5 to possibly 5.0.”

Scharnberger said his seismographic instruments measured the magnitude of the first quake at 4.5 on the Richter Scale.

He explained it is difficult to determine the intensity of the earthquakes until a day later because those living near the suspected epicenter have to be interviewed about what they felt and the extent of the damage.

A May 10 earthquake, measuring 2.5 on the Richter Scale, shook the Wyomissing Hills-Spring Township area and was followed by several temblors.

-January 16th, 1994 Reading Eagle

Born and raised in Berks, I am fascinated by the style, design & culture of the mid-late 20th century. I started this website to research and build a collection of the places, things and stories I have heard about my entire life. Read more here.

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