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Earthquake shakes off of Florida's East Coast

4.0 magnitude earthquake rattled northeast parts of the state
Posted at 5:11 PM, Feb 08, 2024

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — You might have heard about the earthquake that happened Wednesday night about 100 miles east of Cape Canaveral. But living in Florida you might be thinking, I have heard about everything from hurricanes and tornadoes to flooding and wildfires, but never earthquakes. So, how rare are they?

“Very. There are from time-to-time earthquakes off the coast of Florida,” said Dr. Jamie MacDonald, a geology professor at Florida Gulf Coast University.

In Dr. MacDonald’s nearly 20 years in Florida he can only remember 2 the quakes, those being in the Gulf of Mexico. The professor of Geology at Florida Gulf Coast University says the earthquakes near Florida are from extremely old faults.

“They are very old,” said Dr. MacDonald. “They are most likely Mesozoic in age. So, like when the dinosaurs were alive. There are old Mesozoic faults in the Gulf of Mexico that get reactivated just from the weight of the world pushing down on them.”

Dr. MacDonald says these earthquakes are nothing to worry about, but tsunami’s from earthquakes are still something we should pay attention to in Florida.

“People who live in Florida should be concerned about tsunamis, but they are not from these small earthquakes that occur in the Atlantic Coast or the Gulf of Mexico, directly adjacent to Florida,” said Dr. MacDonald. “A greater concern in Puerto Rico trench.”

That trench is right where the North American Plate and Caribbean Plate meet. That fault line is responsible for many large earthquakes in Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, and Cuba.

“But there could potentially be a very large earthquake near Puerto Rico that could cause a tsunami that could affect Florida, possibly,” said Dr. MacDonald.

Still the odds of that are very low. And if a tsunami impacted South Florida, it could only be a few inches high given how shallow our water is.