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An earthquake is the sudden, rapid shaking of the earth, caused by shifting and breaking of rock beneath the Earth’s surface as it releases stress that has accumulated over a long period of time. Initial mild shaking may strengthen and become extremely violent within seconds. Additional earthquakes, called aftershocks, may follow the initial earthquake. Most are smaller than the initial earthquake but larger magnitude aftershocks also occur. Earthquakes may cause household items to become dangerous projectiles; cause buildings to move off foundations or collapse, damage utilities, roads, and structures such as bridges and dams, or cause fires and explosions.

Anne Arundel County is prone to earthquakes. Areas on the east coast including the Mid-Atlantic region, and New England are watched for seismic activity by the United States Geological Service.

Earthquakes can happen at any time of the year and occur without warning, although they usually last less than one minute. Aftershocks following the initial earthquake may occur for hours, days, or even months. Earthquakes cannot be predicted — although scientists are working on it!

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