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5.1 Magnitude Earthquake Startles and Confuses Cubans, Floridians

Prior to yesterday, most Floridians' experience with the Richter scale was limited to the former Universal Studios attraction, Earthquake: The Big One. At around 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon, a rare, 5.1-magnitude earthquake struck outside Cuba leaving residents of the seismically stable country -- and some South Floridians -- slightly confused.

Although no damage has been reported yet, the tremor is one of the few to ever occur in the Straits of Florida, the J-shaped channel that hooks through Florida, the Keys, Cuba and the Bahamas.

Registering as "moderate" on the Richter scale, the quake had the potential to damage poorly built structures but was unlikely to cause any fatalities.

Although Cubans told the Associated Press the experience was "unsettling" and "strange," a number of earthquakes have hit the island in the past. Perhaps most notably, one killed eight people in 1932.

As for Florida, the first recorded quake occurred in 1879, in St. Augustine, and it could be felt in Daytona Beach and Tampa. In 1880, one Cuban quake could even be felt throughout the Keys, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey. It would be the only time that Earthquake damage occurred in Florida. No earthquake has ever originated in Miami.

The National Weather Service says there's no danger of a tsunami.

Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti

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