Peabody rattled by second confirmed earthquake in two weeks

PEABODY, Mass. — Terrified Peabody residents braced themselves Wednesday night as the second confirmed earthquake in two weeks rattled the North Shore city.

After catching their breath, Stacie Dolin and Dale Houston hurried out of their Emerson Street home to find their equally concerned and confused neighbors outside, too.

“There was this massive boom that shook the whole house,” Houston said.

“It honestly feels like something is trying to burst its way out from inside the earth,” Dolin added.

But the jolt was hardly the first of its kind. Peabody residents have been reporting loud booms and tremors for months.

John Ebel, professor of geophysics at Boston College and a senior research scientist at BC’s Weston Observatory, said Wednesday night’s activity registered as a 1.2-magnitude earthquake.

He also identified another small quake shortly after midnight on July 25. No damage was reported from either incident.

“It’s a typical small earthquake for this part of the country,” Ebel said. “In New England, we pick up an earthquake, 1- to 1.5-magnitude, oh, once or twice a month from somewhere in the region.”

Earthquakes occur in the region because, as North America spreads away from Europe and Africa, the North American tectonic plate is colliding with the Pacific plate, Ebel explained.

“So you have North America caught in a big squeezing motion,” Ebel said. “And that squeezing is causing it to squeeze and crack in the interior. And that’s why we have earthquakes in the New England region.”

But residents are curious why it’s happening in Peabody – and why more than once.

Ebel’s research includes earthquake swarms, or clusters of earthquakes in one place over a short period of time. It’s possible Peabody could be experiencing a swarm, Ebel said.

“I’m concerned they’re going to keep happening,” Dolin said. “They’re very frightening when they happen.”

While it’s impossible to predict whether a much bigger seismic event is on the horizon, as some residents fear, Ebel says it is unlikely.

“Most of the time when we have a small earthquake, it’s not followed by something big. It’s not followed by an earthquake large enough to be damaging,” he said.

In February, police used drones and K-9s to investigate what Peabody residents believed were explosions nearby. Houston said that event shook his home even harder and louder than the confirmed earthquakes. However, police did not discover the cause, and no significant seismic activity was detected.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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