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Q&A:

Florida's earthquake

On last week's earthquake I didn't think Florida had quakes?

The Jan. 9 earthquake, measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale and located just 24 miles north of Coralillo, Cuba, in the Florida Straits, was an unusual (Florida and North Dakota are tied for the states with the least amount of earthquake activity) but not unprecedented occurrence. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it was the sixth known earthquake measuring between 3.0 and 5.6 magnitude within 125 miles of that area in the past 75 years.

A spokesperson for the USGS told the Miami Herald that area, about 300 miles from a major fault line between southern Cuba and Hispaniola, is generally "quiet seismically" but also close to several minor faults, collectively called the Nortecubana Fault system.

"There is no question that it is unusual where it hit," Timothy Dixon, a University of South Florida geophysics professor and earthquake expert, told the Herald. "I have no clue why this earthquake happened.

"Scientists are definitely going to be looking at this one," Dixon said. "Earthquakes happen periodically in Cuba, but in the south."

Perhaps the strongest earthquake to hit Florida, according to the USGS website, happened in 1879 when a shock hit St. Augustine, just south of Jacksonville, knocking plaster off walls and articles off shelves.

More recently, on Sept, 11, 2006, a 5.8 magnitude quake occurred about 260 miles southwest of Tampa, in the Gulf of Mexico, shaking a wide area but causing no damage.

Naming winter storms

How long have winter storms been named and who decides what the names will be?

The Weather Channel began naming winter storms about one year ago to "better communicate the threat and the timing of the significant impacts that accompany these events," according to Weather.com. The Weather Channel meteorologist Bryan Norcross said on the network's website that the naming system was a "huge success, with well over a billion impressions on Twitter," but many major news outlets, such as the New York Times, didn't use the names in coverage.

That included reporting on Winter Storm Nemo — also called the Blizzard of 2013 — which dumped large amounts of snow across the Northeast and eastern Canada in February. The National Weather Service told its forecasters last year not to use the names.

A Latin class at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, Mont., helped the Weather Channel come up with a list of 26 names that are being used this winter. This year's list: Atlas, Boreas, Cleon, Dion, Electra, Falco, Gemini, Hercules, Ion, Janus, Kronos, Leon, Maximus, Nika, Orion, Pax, Quintus, Rex, Seneca, Titan, Ulysses, Vulcan, Wiley, Xenia, Yona and Zephyr. The Weather Channel named 27 storms last winter.

Compiled from Times and wire reports. To submit a question, email answers@tampabay.com.

Q&A: 01/16/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 17, 2014 6:31pm]

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