If the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Based on historical precedent, Armbruster says the New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century.
According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.
A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.
Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.
There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan's 125th St. - which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.
There's another fault line on Dyckman St and one in Dobbs Ferry in nearby Westchester County.
"The problem here comes from many subtle faults," explained Skyes after the study was published.
He adds: "We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought."
"Considering population density and the condition of the region's infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact," says the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation on its website.
Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
"I would expect some people to be killed," he notes.
The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale.