A slight earthquake near Montreal shook up residents almost 75 miles away in Burlington, Vt., just after midnight Wednesday, officials said.
“Geology doesn’t care where the international borders are,’’ said John Ebel, a seismologist and director of Boston College’s Weston Observatory. “An earthquake centered in Canada could potentially give us damage. We have to pay attention to them.’’
The epicenter of the earthquake was about 20 miles east of Montreal, in Beloeil, Quebec, the US Geological Survey said. The US agency reported the quake as having a magnitude of 3.9, while Canada’s natural resources agency reported a magnitude as high as 4.5.
“There isn’t a surefire way to measure an earthquake,’’ Ebel said, adding that the magnitude scores are within the same range.
In New England, about 20 earthquakes are detected each year but only half are felt. Last week, a minor 1.3-magnitude earthquake was felt by a few people near Milford, N.H. Typically, anything above magnitude of 2 is felt, unless the earthquake is focused just below the earth’s crust, Ebel said.
A 2.5-magnitude earthquake was also reported in Huntingdon, Quebec, a few hours after the Milford, N.H., quake.
“Some years, there are more, some fewer,’’ Ebel said. “There’s always this feeling that there’s more [earthquakes] now than before, but it’s been an average year.’’
New England stands at a much lower risk of major earthquakes than California, which sits atop major geologic fault lines.
But that doesn’t mean damaging earthquakes are unheard of in the Northeast. In August 2011, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake hit Virginia and was felt all the way up the East Coast and into Canada. It left an estimated $100 million in damage, prompting precautionary repairs in case of future incidents. The Washington Monument was closed after cracks were found, with repairs not expected to be complete until 2014, according to the National Park Service.