Geology Professor Explains Earthquakes in Southern West Virginia

WEST VIRGINIA (WOAY) – At almost three in the morning on Monday, some southern West Virginians may have felt a small tremor.

The earthquake reached a magnitude of 2.6, one of the lowest magnitudes that humans can feel. Since it was so early in the morning, most people didn’t feel it.

“It actually depends a lot on where you are and what you’re doing,” said Concord University geology professor Stephen Kuehn. “Somebody who is sitting in a wobbly chair might feel it and somebody else standing up and walking around wouldn’t notice it.”

West Virginia stands on ancient faults–the same faults that created the Appalachian Mountains. While plates around us move, the faults that West Virginia sits on sometimes shift, causing small earthquakes.

“At the individual fault, the fault might be stuck, so the rocks next to the fault actually are deformed very slowly,” said Kuehn. “They actually start to bend a little bit and the energy is getting stored up in there. It’s just like bending a spring or stretching a rubber band.”

When the faults break free and release the tension, an earthquake happens.

Earthquakes are almost always happening, but usually, they’re so small that humans can’t feel them. In West Virginia, it’s especially rare to feel an earthquake unless a strong one happens nearby.

“Say a very big earthquake [happened] on the New Madrid site. We were definitely feel that quite strongly here.”

This explains why not many felt Monday’s earthquake, but many felt the large earthquake that originated in central Virginia in 2011.

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at