Earthquakes in Virginia are rare in the Coastal Plain, but are not restricted to just one region. Two zones in Virginia are more susceptible to earthquakes than others, and can be identified by the rivers which follow those faults.

What to do During an earthquake

Stay as safe as possible during an earthquake. Be aware that some earthquakes are actually foreshocks and a larger earthquake might occur. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place and if you are indoors, stay there until the shaking has stopped and you are sure exiting is safe.

  • If Indoors:
    • Drop to the ground
    • Take cover by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture
    • Hold on until the shaking stops.
  • If outdoors:
    • Stay there.
  • If in a moving vehicle:
    • Stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle.
  • If trapped under debris:
    • Do not light a match. Do not move about or kick up dust.

What to do After an Earthquake

  • Expect aftershocks.
  • Listen for the latest emergency information.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls
  • Open cabinets cautiously.
  • Stay away from damaged areas
  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe.
  • Stay away from the beach.
  • Help injured or trapped persons.
  • Remember to help your neighbors
  • You can obtain safe water by melting ice cubes.
  • Inspect utilities.
    • Check for gas leaks.
    • Look for electrical system damage.
    • Check for sewage and water lines damage.

Earthquakes in Virginia

The James River follows the Central Virginia Seismic Zone between Charlottesville and Richmond and the New River follows the Giles County Seismic Zone from Radford to the West Virginia border.

Virginia is pretty stable, but just about any place in the state can experience an earthquake. Manassas was surprised by a 2.5 magnitude tremor in 1997, and an equivalent earthquake was felt in Culpeper two months earlier. Near the southern edge of the Culpeper Triassic basin, a magnitude 3.2 earthquake rattled Charlottesville in 2001.

In 2011, Virginia had a 5.8 and the epicenter was in Louisa County, VA. The tremors were felt across more than a dozen states and in several Canadian provinces.