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Earthquake Rattles Ontario, Quebec

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An 4.8 magnitude tremor was detected in southern Ontario on May 17, 2013. It was detected in Braeside, Ont., west of Ottawa.
An 4.8 magnitude tremor was detected in southern Ontario on May 17, 2013. It was detected in Braeside, Ont., west of Ottawa.

An earthquake and quick aftershock struck central Canada Friday, rattling residents and buildings in Ontario and Quebec and reports of tremors as far away as Ohio.

Earthquakes Canada says at 9:43 a.m. EST it registered a 5.2-magnitude temblor with an epicentre located about 17 kilometres northeast of Shawville, Que., about an hour's drive outside Ottawa.

Less than 10 minutes later, a 4.2-magnitude aftershock was also recorded near the town of Braeside, Ont. The two towns are located about 33 kilometres away from each other across the Ottawa River.

There have been no reports of damage so far, said Taimi Mulder, a seismologist at the Geological Survey of Canada.

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The quake touched off an eruption of reaction on Twitter as users reported buildings shaking in Ottawa for several seconds; it was also felt in cities as far away as Toronto, Montreal and Waterloo, Ont.

Twitter users in Ohio also said they felt the aftershocks. Mulder said she wouldn’t be surprised because Northern Ohio is about the same distance from the epicentre as Montreal.

An earthquake of the 5.0 magnitude feels “like a really sharp jolt if you’re really close to it,” Mulder said.

“When you get further away the larger earthquakes start feeling like a low rolling motion and you’re just approaching that around a magnitude five,” she added.

Mulder said earthquake shock waves come in two variations, like treble and bass on a stereo.

“So it’s like the high notes or the low notes and the high stuff is really high frequency, so they don’t travel very far and that's what people hear and feel when you’re close,” she explained.

“When you’re further away, it’s like the bass notes [which travel further], so it’s the low rumbling feeling.”

Ontario sits inside the North American continental plate and the earthquake was likely the eventual result of the edges of the plate bumping against another tectonic plate, which made its way through to find a pre-existing area of weakness that ruptured, Mulder said.

The absolute magnitude for that type of magnitude is 7.0 or 8.0 on the Richter scale, she added.

Earthquakes in Ontario are not unheard of. In 2011 a 5.8 quake in Virginia could be felt as in parts of Ontario. Earlier this year, a small quake rattled western Quebec. And on June 23, 2010, a 5.0 magnitude earthquake happened in Central Canada, the epicentre north of Ottawa in Quebec.

Though it may appear they are becoming more common, they are actually just being reported more often and faster.

Before the Internet, Earthquakes Canada collected reports of occurrences by surveys that were mailed through Canada Post.

Now they can be reported instantly through a questionnaire on the Earthquakes Canada website, Mulder said.

“We think they’re happening more frequently because our communications are a lot better now than they were 20 years ago.”

More from The Canadian Press:

The original quake was powerful enough to shake the big stone and brick building that houses the municipal offices in Shawville, said the community's mayor.

"The windowsill, the walls seemed to shift up and down," Mayor Albert Armstrong told The Canadian Press. "My cabinet behind me was shaking and twisting.

"I've lived here all my life and I've never witnessed one like that before."

The quake touched off an eruption of reaction on Twitter as users reported buildings shaking in Ottawa for several seconds; it was also felt in Toronto.

Ontario Provincial Police in Arnprior, Ont., not far from the epicentre, said they had received no reports of damage.

The quake was slightly stronger than the last one of significance to hit the region — a magnitude 5.0 earthquake that was felt on the afternoon of June 23, 2010.

That quake's epicentre was situated in the area of Buckingham, Que., about 56 km north of Ottawa.

Ontario and Quebec residents, let us know in the comments if you felt the earthquake.