Fire officials offer safety advice after earthquake hits Southern New England

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EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed Sunday morning that an earthquake hit near the coast of Southeastern Massachusetts.

The estimated 3.6 magnitude quake struck Buzzards Bay around 9:10 a.m., according to the USGS. People around Southern New England reported to 12 News that they felt their homes shake.

The New Bedford Fire Department is advising anyone who felt the earthquake to check their gas lines, furnace and smokestack for potential damage and make sure they have a working carbon monoxide detector.

“Not a lot of people are using their heat right now, and that’s our fear,” Deputy Fire Chief James Fortin said. “Our fear is that once it starts getting colder, our first cold snap, people are going to have damage that they’re not aware of, they’re going to kick on their heat, and we’re going to have multiple carbon monoxide incidents.”

If you spot any loose pipes or fallen bricks, contact your gas company or the non-emergency line of your local fire department.

Video Now: Deputy Chief Fortin (story continues below)

The USGS originally estimated the earthquake was 4.0 to 4.2 magnitude.

Dr. John Ebel, a research scientist at Weston Observatory, said the magnitude of the quake can change once inspections are conducted. He pegged it at 3.6 before the USGS updated its estimation.

Earthquakes of that magnitude occur in New England roughly once a year, Ebel said, but they’re often in locations where they go unnoticed by the general public.

Video Now: Dr. Ebel (story continues below)

There’s a possibility of aftershocks over the next few days, according to Ebel, but they will likely be weaker than the initial quake and the tremors may not be felt by everyone.

Earthquakes of 3-4 magnitude are typically not damaging, though there were some reports of structural damage in New Bedford and Dartmouth. The Red Cross was seen visiting homes where damage was reported.

USGS Earthquake Hazards Map with ‘Shakemap’ Contours: Use Interactive Map »

USGS Earthquake Hazards Map Nov. 8, 2020: M 3.6 – 11 km S of Bliss Corner, Massachusetts

Earthquakes of 1-2 magnitude are more common in Southern New England. The New Bedford area felt them most recently in Oct. 2017 (1.2 magnitude) and Jan. 2014 (1.9 magnitude) while Rhode Island has had several over the past few years:

  • July 2020: Narragansett (magnitude 1.6)
  • Dec. 2019: Newport (magnitude 1.3)
  • Feb. 2016: Providence and Newport (magnitude 0.9 and 1.0, respectively)
  • July 2015: Providence (magnitude 2.3)

Live updates from Meteorologist Pete Mangione

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