May 7, 2003 An earthquake registering 4.2 on the Richter Scale shook the Virgin Islands at 8:57 a.m. on Wednesday.
John Bellini, a geophysicist at the National Earthquake Center in Golden, Colo., said it was centered at 18.65 north and 65 west, or about 21 miles north of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.
Bellini said it was "a fairly deep one," putting the depth at 72.1 miles below the earth's surface. He said items were reported falling off shelves in Puerto Rico, but no damage was reported in the Virgin Islands.
However, nerves were rattled here. Todd Hecht, owner of FilmVI Dot Net, dropped what he was doing to make sure his wife and child were safe and secure. "These things [earthquakes] scare the hell of me," he said.
A loud rumbling was heard on St. Thomas' North Side prior to the quake.
The Virgin Islands experienced a 3.1 earthquake on May 1, which was the last one to hit the area. Bellini said the May 1 quake was located farther north than Wednesday's earthquake and was a whole magnitude smaller so it went unfelt.
According to the University of Puerto Rico's Seismic Network, the Virgin Islands had five earthquakes in April. The largest was a 3.5.
Most earthquakes to hit this area seldom exceed the low 4s, but on November 13, 2002, a 5.0 rattled residents.
While Wednesday's earthquake was minor, it should serve as a reminder that a big one can hit and residents need to be prepared.
This means securing whatever you can. Things like gas cylinders and bookshelves should be secured to prevent damage to the items and to stop them from hitting someone if they fall over during an earthquake.
Should a big earthquake hit, residents should drop, cover and hold, meaning they should turn away from windows, crouch under a desk or chair, and if the desk or table moves, grab the legs and move with it.
For frequently updated information on earthquakes in the area, visit the Puerto Rico Seismic Center and UWI Seismic Research Unit Web sites.
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