Big Island’s 4.8 magnitude Valentine’s Day earthquake causes shaking but no reported damage
February 15, 2023, 3:05 PM HST
* Updated February 15, 7:28 PM
Literally, thousands of earthquakes happen every year throughout Hawai’i, with an overwhelming majority happening right here, on or around the Big Island. But most are on the smaller side, averaging less than magnitude 3.
So when a big quake rattles the island, there are almost always three questions asked in the immediate aftermath: Did you feel it, did it cause any damage and did it have an effect on any of the island’s volcanoes?
The 4.8-magnitude temblor that struck just before 9:30 p.m. Tuesday about 7.5 miles off the Ka‘ū Coast southeast of Pāhala was the largest quake to shake the island in the past month.
“Wow!” exclaimed a Facebook post by Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park shortly after the earthquake Tuesday night. “That one felt like a freight train in Volcano … very long … and was felt all around the island.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. Geological Survey had received more than 1,400 responses to the question “Did You Feel It?” Most of them were from the Big Island, but the quake was felt as far away as the North Shore of Kaua‘i.
“That was a strong jolt,” Frank Maui, who lives in the Volcano Golf Course area, said in a comment on Big Island Now’s story about the quake.
“That was a big one!!!,” Doug Entz said in a Facebook post within a minute after the Valentine’s Day 2023 temblor. “Even the dog freaked.”
Grace Miles asked members of the Fern Forest Glenwood Hawai‘i Real Connections Facebook group if anyone else felt it: “The whole house just shook!” she posted just after the quake.
Fortunately, all that shaking — which was described as moderate to strong depending on where those responding lived — didn’t translate to major damage. Hawai‘i County Civil Defense had received no reports of damage as of Wednesday morning.
The earthquake also had no apparent impact on either Mauna Loa or Kīlauea volcanoes, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The earthquake was part of the seismic swarm under the Pāhala area, which has been going on since 2019.
Earthquakes in the region in the southern reaches of the Big Island have been observed at least as far back as the 1960s. This area produces numerous deep earthquakes beneath Pāhala and extending about 6 miles offshore.
The uptick in seismicity starting in August 2019 is the latest chapter in the decades-long history of observed earthquakes in the area. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has recorded elevated seismicity in the region deep under Pāhala since late 2015, sometimes exceeding 40 quakes per day. Only swarms in 1972 and 1975 exceeded this rate.
While these deeper earthquakes do not likely pose a strong hazard, the volcano observatory says shallow crustal temblors in the area have been damaging, including the 1868 magnitude-7.9 Great Ka‘ū earthquake and its many aftershocks.
The Valentine’s Day 2023 Big Island earthquake was one of eight temblors of magnitude 4.8 or higher that occurred around the Pacific from Tuesday night to early Wednesday afternoon.
A 5.2M quake struck at 9:35 p.m. Tuesday west-southwest of Adak, Alaska, just two minutes before the temblor off the southern Big Island coast. A 4.9-magnitude earthquake rumbled northeast of Dimasalang, Philippines, nearly two hours later. Early Wednesday morning, a 5.2 quake struck west of Cepita, Colombia. A 5.0M temblor rattled a couple of hours later off the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. A quake with a magnitude of 5.1 was also recorded Wednesday morning east of Tonga, with a 6.1-magnitude shaker just 10 minutes later north-northeast of Miaga, Philippines. Another 5.0 rumbled Wednesday afternoon west-northwest of Colchani, Bolivia.
Several people on social media said the Big Island earthquake — which lasted for several seconds, starting with a few light tremors that were followed by a big shake before tapering off — shook their houses.
“Scared the crap outta me! But it only lasted for a second,” Kathleen Martinez Taylor said.
Some were able to sleep right through the quake, but it did rattle others out of their slumber.
“Shaky shaky, waky waky,” posted Brad Salmon on Facebook. “Thought the dog was kicking the bed.”
It “knocked some stuff down” at an Ocean View home, according to a post in the Ocean View Hawai‘i Community Bulletin Board Facebook group. The same happened at a Hilo home on Kaʻūmana Drive, where several anime figures were tossed off shelves during the rumbling.
For more information from the U.S. Geological Survey about recent earthquakes on the Big Island and elsewhere around the globe, click here.