A 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the heart of Virginia Tuesday, sending ripples throughout much of the Eastern U.S. Tremors could be felt as far as 100 miles away from the quake’s epicenter in Mineral, Virginia. Residents of the East Coast, whom are unaccustomed to the ground beneath their feet shaking, flocked to Twitter and Facebook to document their experiences. Tremors reached New York City, causing mild panic among those that had never witnessed such an event.
The quake took its toll in Virginia, but no inordinate amount of damage was caused elsewhere. Of the states that felt the quake, the majority experienced little more than mild rumbles that shook tables or knocked over precariously placed objects. Though mild, the event has raised questions about value of earthquake insurance on the East Coast.
Few people are protected by earthquake insurance, even in states that deal with seismic activitiy on a daily basis. In California, only 12% of homeowners actually have such policies, according to the Property Casualty Insurers association of America. This percentage drops outside of the state, leaving many to wonder at its relevance.
Earthquakes are not uncommon in the East, contrary to popular belief. While Virginia has only been home to some 200 earthquakes since 1977, neighboring states have had their own seismic events that have rivaled those experienced in California. According to Marcia McNutt of the U.S. Geological Survey, more than half of the states in the U.S. are considered to be “earthquake country.” In fact, severe damage from seismic events has been recorded in each state since 1900.
The big question is whether or not earthquake insurance is worth paying for if such events happen once every decade or so. Insurers say that going without such insurance is a risk that should not be taken lightly.