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Reactions to afternoon earthquake

Tremors felt throughout the region this afternoon have been confirmed as an earthquake by the U.S. Geological Survey. It was measured as a 5.0 magnitude quake centered 33 miles north of Ottawa.

Keep up to date on the latest information here.

7:45 p.m. Check out this U.S. Geological Survey "intensity map" of today's quake.

7:13 p.m.: Here's a video clip from today's news conference with Dr. Andre Filiatrault, director of the University at Buffalo’s earthquake engineering research center:

Click here for a longer, more detailed audio clip from Dr. Filiatrault.

5:17 p.m.: The News' Denise Jewell Gee asked some people in downtown Buffalo to describe what they felt:

5:10 p.m.: The News' Joseph Popiolkowski and Brian Meyer headed out to talk with some Western New Yorkers who felt the tremor and City of Buffalo officials charged with reacting:

4:27 p.m.: The News' Lauren Nicole Mariacher covered a news conference held by earthquake experts at the University at Buffalo this afternoon:

Today's earthquake, which originated at the Quebec-Ontario border in Canada and was felt by many Western New Yorkers this afternoon, was likely the second largest experienced in this region in the last 22 years. ... Read more

4:26 p.m.: Within an hour after the tremor occurred, city inspections officials were outside the shuttered Statler Towers on Niagara Square.

Over the past eight months, there have been two incidents where portions of the downtown icon's facade crashed to the sidewalk. After a section of the decorative cornice fell in April, crews fenced off the sidewalk.

Inspections Commissioner James W. Comerford said officials checked out the Statler this afternoon strictly as a precautionary measure.

"We looked around the entire [perimeter] and didn't find even a chip," Comerford told The Buffalo News following the inspection. --Brian Meyer

4:11 p.m.: The local chapter of the American Red Cross has issued this news release in response to the earthquake, with tips on how to stay safe during a quake. --Aaron Besecker 

3:55 p.m.: City employee Carol Mahiques describes the earthquake:


Download the audio clip

--Brian Meyer and Joseph Popiolkowski

3:46 p.m.: Here are the lead stories from the Ottawa Citizen and Toronto Globe and Mail on the earthquake's effects in Canada.

3:45 p.m.: Here is a look back at the earthquake Buffalo experienced May 24, 1995:

The earth shook and thousands quaked with anxiety for at least a few seconds this morning as an earthquake rattled Buffalo's northern neighborhoods and suburbs.

Seismographs in Ottawa, Ont., measured the quake at "magnitude 3," a minor tremor. The quake, at 10:42 a.m., seemed centered north of Buffalo. ... Read more

3:29 p.m.: Here is a look back at the earthquake Buffalo experienced Sept. 25, 1998:

Ripples from an earthquake near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border rumbled through Western New York just before 4 p.m. Friday, triggering dozens of calls to police agencies.

The 3:53 p.m. quake was centered in northwest Pennsylvania, about 15 miles northeast of Sharon, according to a statement released by the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. ... Read more

3:12 p.m.: The tremors elicited different responses from people.

Michelle Mahaney, a Snyder resident who lived in southern California during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, said she knew right away to stay put or to seek a reinforced doorway or strong table.

"After feeling that and experiencing how scary that was, then to feel this here, it was like, 'OK, I've been through worse,'" Mahaney said. "'I know I'll be OK.'"

Mahaney, a software engineer who was on the seventh floor of Lafayette Court when she felt the tremors, described them as "really slow" and "consistent."

Mahaney's co-worker, Marge Polino, took a different approach.

"I was on a conference call, and I was like, 'OK, I think it's an earthquake. I'm out of here,'" Polino recalled. "I left the building."

A block away, Brian McCarthy didn't feel a thing as he worked an outdoor hotdog cart in Lafayette Square.

"I didn't even notice," McCarthy said. --Denise Jewell Gee

3:06 p.m.: The Army Corps of Engineers has begun checking all of its facilities in the wake of the tremor, said Bruce I. Sanders, public affairs officer in the agency's Buffalo District.

Those checks include the Black Rock Channel, the Mount Morris Dam in Livingston County and the agency's Niagara Street headquarters, where workers felt the quake, said Sanders.

The agency also inspected the 10-acre storage cell of radiological waste in Lewiston at the Niagara Falls Storage Site.

"Within one minute of the quake, our on-site personnel at [Niagara Falls Storage Site] were inspecting the [Interim Waste Containment Structure] and found no problems," Sanders said in an e-mail.

The containment cell was designed by the Department of Energy to withstand earthquakes of up to 6.5 magnitude, he said.

A public meeting on the environmental investigation at the storage site was already scheduled for 6 p.m. today at the Lewiston Senior Center. Corps representatives plan to bring information about the design of the cell in relation to its earthquake resistance. --Aaron Besecker

2:48 p.m.: It is not unknown for this region of Canada to experience earthquakes of this magnitude, but it is unusual, said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado.

"The vast majority of quakes there are smaller, in the 2 or 3 magnitude range," Blakeman said.

Reports are still coming in from various points in Canada and the United States, but tremors were felt as far away as Michigan, he said.

It would take a quake with a magnitude of 6.0 or greater to cause serious injuries or fatalities in this country, Blakeman said. This earthquake was a 5.5.

"We wouldn't expect very heavy damage. We wouldn't expect injuries. If there are some, they would be minor," he said. --Stephen T. Watson

2:45 p.m.: Gina Browning, director of public relations at the SPCA serving Erie County, says that Scooter, an injured conure -- a medium-sized parrot -- who has been convalescing in her office at the SPCA's Tonawanda location, trembled and screamed all day before the quake.

"It was very unusual behavior for Scooter," says Browning, who has had Scooter in her office for three weeks. "We actually asked each other, 'What's got Scooter so riled up today?' He's been out of sorts all day, shaking and screaming."

Special Events Coordinator Bethany Kloc noticed at 1:43 p.m. that the water was sloshing in a glass on her desk in her nearby office, Browning says.

While the humans stood up to discuss the quake, two dogs in the office area suddenly had a scuffle, Browning says. Staffers separated them without injury. "I never put two and two together with the earthquake and the animals' behavior until later."

Browning said she herself did not feel the earthquake. "I don't even feel when I have a flat tire," she said. --Anne Neville

2:44 p.m.: The quake also was felt parts in Lockport, including the upper floors of the Niagara County Courthouse, where Deputy Commission of Jurors Rebecca Edmister was among those to report plants moving in her third-floor office.

"We thought they were moving furniture downstairs," Edmister said. --Nancy A. Fischer

2:40 p.m.: Matt Davison, a spokesman for the Public Bridge Authority, said traffic was unaffected on the span linking Buffalo and Fort Erie, Ont.

"We do have engineers out doing safety checks, which we do in any instance like this," he said. "It's business as usual."

No problems were reported in any of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority's operations -- including the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and Metro Rail -- according to spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer. --Robert J. McCarthy

2:38 p.m.: Jennifer Sepulvedo was on the ninth floor of City Hall when the earthquake hit.

"I felt the things on my wall chattering and you could see everything shaking and swaying," said Sepulvedo, a community planner for the city. "The building kind of swayed a bit."

Sepulvedo said some workers in the building left because of a concern over aftershocks. "To feel City Hall shaking was just mind-boggling," she said.

At The 2nd Cup coffee shop on Broadway, workers mistook the earthquake for the usual cafe bustle. "I thought we dropped something in the kitchen," said owner Kat Tyler.

The incident has sparked a brief sense of camaraderie in downtown Buffalo as strangers swap stories and call friends to see if they felt anything. "My girlfriend just called me," Tyler said. "She's in the HSBC tower, and she's freaking, because they felt it good."

Patti Zelasko, a legal secretary in a law office on the 14th floor of the Rand Building, said her co-worker a few feet away felt the shaking, but she didn't. "She said, 'Why's the floor moving?'" Zelasko recalled during an afternoon break outside. "I said, 'I don't know.'" --Denise Jewell Gee

2:33 p.m.: "You could feel it on the groud," Shannon Holfoth, 22, of Lewiston, said. "I was sitting on the couch, and I could feel it ... on the couch. It was constant. It lasted 30 seconds."

"It wasn't violent," Holfoth added, "but you could see [an aluminum tree on our wall] moving back and forth, up and down. I never thought it was an earthquake, I thought it was [my brothers]. But it was too strong. You could feel the ground moving."

Here is what Joe Cerrie, a Fredonia village trustee, observed: "The entire building was shaking -- entire building. 183 Main St. Maybe a minute." --Charlie Specht

2:30 p.m.: "I was in the dentist chair in North Buffalo and I felt it. I thought the doctor was moving the chair," said Anne Duggan, spokeswoman for Ciminelli Development Co. "I looked up, and the light, the arm, was moving. It was pretty strange." --Jonathan Epstein

2:27 p.m.: The U.S. Geological Survey has confirmed that the tremors felt across the region were the result of an earthquake. The earthquake was centered 33 miles north of Ottawa, on the border between Ontario and Quebec, according to information posted on the USGS Web site. It was measured as a 5.5 magnitude quake that struck at 1:41 p.m., according to the Web site. --Stephen T. Watson

2:26 p.m.: The USGS database of most recent earthquakes, which goes back to 1973, shows nothing for Western New York until 1995, when a few people felt a magnitude 3 quake in the Town of Tonawanda.

The next listing is in 2007, when there were two quakes, in Hamburg and Attica. There was one in Newstead in 2008, and one May 20, 2009 was the second that year. The other occurred Jan. 26 in Newfane.

All the reports showed magnitude readings between 2 and 3. --Bruce Andriatch

2:25 p.m.: The quake also was felt parts in Lockport, including the upper floors of the Niagara County Courthouse, where the commissioner of jurors was among those to report plants moving in her office. --Scott Scanlon

2:24 p.m.: A Web site maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey called "Did You Feel It?" reported 669 responses in 133 ZIP codes and 55 cities with 30 minutes of the tremor. A map on the Web site also showed major responses from Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, with other reports fielded from as far as east as western New Hampshire.

The map also showed reports from as far east Utica in New York State.  --Robert J. McCarthy

2:20 p.m.: "Our offices are at Delaware and North in Buffalo [the Butler Mansion and Carriage House] and it felt as if the buildings were rocking back and forth.Several of us evacuated for a short time," Mary Cochrane said.  --Bruce Andriatch

2:18 p.m.: An official at 911 emergency phone center in Buffalo said no complaints about the quake have been received, though 911 workers in downtown felt the building shake. --Lou Michel

2:17 p.m.: In Niagara County, the walls shook slightly, as did chandeliers and pendant lights at the offices of real estate developer Calamar Enterprises in Wheatfield.

"It was very loud for a second. It was very quick," said spokeswoman Kathy Griffiths. "All of a sudden, everyone comes running. My walls were moving."  --Jonathan Epstein

2:15 p.m.: Kevin J. Brick Jr. was working on his laptop in the living room of his home on Niagara Street in North Tonawanda when the shaking started.

"It just started off with kind of like a creak, but my old house does that all the time," Brick said. "But then I started to hear cracks, and then my house started violently shaking."

Friends who lived on Payne Avenue had pictures falling off their walls, Brick added. --Aaron Besecker

2:11 p.m.: City public works officials are checking with structural engineers, merely as a precaution, to make sure that the tremor did not cause any damage to buildings or other structures, mayoral spokesman Peter K. Cutler said.

Some City Hall workers said they thought that perhaps major construction was under way nearby.

City employee Carol Mahiques was relaxing during her lunch break at the time of the tremor. "I was going from side to side. It was actually pretty intense," she said. --Brian Meyer

2:10 p.m.: The United States Geological Survey’s earthquakes Web site indicates an earthquake centered near the Ontario and Quebec border in Canada within the last hour. --Steve Jones 

2:07 p.m.: "I was on the computer and the whole desk started shaking for at least 20 seconds," said Cindy Luna, who lives on Terri Court, off Pletcher Road, in the Town of Lewiston.

Potted plants shook in place on the shelves in her house and the chandelier swung, but nothing fell, Luna said.

"It felt like something was dragging my whole house." --Scott Scanlon

2:05 p.m.: "Everybody on the floor noticed it," said Annie Deck-Miller, spokeswoman at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. "Everyone was pretty relaxed about it, but interested. We all went to Facebook right away to see if we were crazy. Within a minute, there were about eight responses just that I saw." --Jonathan Epstein

2:03 p.m.: Charles McCollum, an executive at investment firm Harold C. Brown & Co., whose offices are on the 38th floor of the HSBC Center, said he felt a tremor as he was sitting at his desk.

"It was really weird," he said. "I was sitting here and then my chair was shaking and my
computer screen was wobbling back and forth." --David Robinson

2:02 p.m.: A secretary at HSBC Bank USA in the HSBC Center said they felt it in the city's tallest building as well. She said a staffer there spoke to someone in North Tonawanda, where the tremor was also felt. --Jonathan Epstein

2:01 p.m.: Patrick Stella, a spokesman for National Grid in Albany, said the company's New York State system has reported no outages. He added, however, that the company had received reports of the tremor felt in its Syracuse area territory.

Randy Edwards, a spokesman for NYSEG, reported all its systems are functioning normally. --Robert J. McCarthy

1:59 p.m.: Some workers on the upper floors of City Hall said they sensed a shaking sensation, a few even saying it seemed to last about a minute.

"It was like you were sitting in your chair and someone was shaking it," said Common Council Chief of Staff James Pajak, who was in his 14th-floor office at the time.

A city staffer assigned to the information booth in the lobby of City Hall, Donald Allen Jr., said there had been reports that people in other nearby buildings had also felt the rumbling. --Brian Meyer

1:58 p.m.: M&T Bank Corp. spokesman C. Michael Zabel said bank employees felt the tremor at "all four of our major buildings here," including the bank's two buildings downtown as well as its suburban Commerce Drive location and its Amherst Center at Cayuga and Wehrle in Amherst. There was no damage or evacuations.

Zabel said the bank's security staff sent out a bulletin that the tremor was felt across Western New York, as far north as Niagara Falls.  --Jonathan Epstein

1:55 p.m.: The apparent earthquake was also felt in Toronto and Ottawa, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail.

1:52 p.m.: The tremor was felt at the National Weather Service offices at Buffalo Niagara International Airport in Cheektowaga.

"I was sitting here, at my desk, forecasting the weather," said meteorologist David Thomas. "All our monitors started to shake."

"It lasted for about a minute. It kind of came on slowly," Thomas said.

It's business as usual at the weather service.

"We're up and running and everything's fine," Thomas said. --Janice L. Habuda

1:46 p.m.: Reports of other areas that felt the rumble include Lewiston, Springville, Grand Island, Elma, Alden and North Tonawanda. --Geoff Nason

1:43 p.m.: Tremors reverberated in downtown Buffalo. --Jay Rey

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