BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Following Monday’s 3.8 magnitude earthquake in West Seneca, University at Buffalo professor and structural engineer Dr. Michel Bruneau answered questions regarding the event and its potential consequences.

The earthquake, which struck on Steiner Avenue in West Seneca at 6:15 a.m., was considered a small one, according to Bruneau. He said any quake that lasts 2 to 3 seconds and consists of three or four jolts is not anything that would cause major damage.

He said there is a “strong correlation” between the amount of jolts the quake causes and the time it occurs with the size of the event, adding that it’s not likely a 3.8 magnitude earthquake would produce damage, save for at-risk, unstable structures already on the verge of collapse.

“You could tell it was going to be a 4, maybe a 5 at worst,” he said.

The event was not, however, related to the recent deadly earthquake in Turkey. He said it is typical that the world is hit with one 8-magnitude quake, 10 7-magnitude quakes, and thousands of 3.8 magnitude quakes each year.

“They don’t all happen next to a city, that’s why it’s news today in Buffalo,” Bruneau said of Monday’s earthquake. “It’s not going to be news when it hits somewhere and it’s in the middle of a national park.”

He continued, addressing how the quake differed from Turkey’s.

“It’s two different things altogether — the earthquake in Turkey is on the South Anatolian Fault, which is quite remote from anything we’re talking about here today.

An outline of the world’s tectonic plates, outlined in red. The star represents the epicenter of the Turkey quake. (Courtesy: USGS)

Bruneau detailed the difference between a fault line quake and an “intraplate” quake.

“These are what we call intraplate earthquakes, meaning they’re not happening at the faults like in California at the San Andreas Fault.”

Bruneau said intraplate earthquakes are harder to understand and predict.

“The entire continent of North America is in compression, there’s new land coming in from the Atlantic all the time, it’s being pushed on the Pacific, where there are faults and subductions,” he said. “So the entire continent is in compression.”

Bruneau said the “boom” heard in the earthquake was caused by the P wave hitting, saying the noise was “nothing unusual.”

“That’s what usually feels like a truck has hit the building or something,” he said. “That’s pretty typical, no matter where you are in the world.”

He said that people lower to the ground on a softer surface would feel more intense vibrations, while those higher up in a building would likely feel a greater number of vibrations.

Bruneau added that nobody can predict earthquakes in the short term. As a structural engineer, he said people must rather design infrastructure to resist earthquakes.

“I don’t think we need to start to panic right now,” he said. “We have to be realistic, though, and understand we can’t predict with great certainty what Mother Nature has in store for the future.”

He once again addressed the recent earthquake in Turkey, saying that some buildings collapsed and some didn’t. He said that not every building was built to same edition of the building code, that older buildings are more likely to fall.

“Not all construction is the same,” he said. “You have things that are in good condition and well-maintained and you may have other buildings that are in less pristine condition.”

With the Buffalo earthquake being so small, he said the damage was minimal, citing that things on shelves in peoples’ homes not even falling.

As for aftershocks, Bruneau said it’s possible there are aftershocks, but statistically, they should be smaller than the one that occurred Monday morning.

The full press conference can be seen at the top of the page.

Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.