Date: June 18, 2002
Location: Evansville, Indiana
Time: 12:37 pm CDT
By MEG JONES
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: June 18, 2002
An earthquake shook parts of the Midwest Tuesday, sending tremors as far as Kenosha but causing little damage.
The quake, which struck at 12:37 p.m., registered a magnitude of 5.0, said Brett Ketter, who works in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee geosciences department. Though the tremor wasn't felt in Milwaukee, employees at UW-Parkside outside Kenosha felt an aftershock.
"We got a little gentle swaying of the building for about 10 seconds," said Dave Buchanan, director of public relations for UW-Parkside, who was on the top floor of three-story Wyllie Hall. "And then it settled down again. No damage was done. Nothing fell off the walls. No one was injured."
Buchanan and others on the third floor of Wyllie Hall felt the aftershock at 12:40 p.m., three minutes after the earthquake hit. The epicenter was 10 miles northwest of Evansville, Ind.
The quake shook buildings in downtown Evansville and was felt in Indiana as far north as South Bend, more than 250 miles away. Aside from Wisconsin, it also was felt in Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.
The only damage reported was cracked chimneys and broken glass in the Evansville area, said Alden Taylor, spokesman for the Indiana state emergency management agency. The quake was hard enough to sound the bells inside a church steeple in Evansville.
Ketter wasn't in the geosciences lab at UWM where a seismometer records earthquakes; he was in the library reading up on earthquake research. But when he returned to the lab, there were a number of messages on his answering machine about the earthquake.
He quickly checked the seismograph and saw the unmistakable squiggly marks from the tremor.
"A 5.0 is pretty good size for that region. That's one of the biggest ones we've had" in that area, said Ketter.
Though Kenosha is far from Evansville, the geology of the area is solid rock between the epicenter and southern Wisconsin, explained Ketter.
"Energy travels faster through rock. Because there's more rock between here and there, it'll travel further," Ketter said. "The shaking won't be worse, it's just that you'll feel it farther away."
When Buchanan felt his chair begin to sway as he worked on his computer, he immediately thought of an earthquake aftershock. About three years ago, he felt the same thing, though only a couple of seconds long, when an earthquake hit somewhere in the Midwest.
"Everybody was kind of disoriented, (asking) 'Did you feel that? I'm not going crazy, am I?' "
Evansville is near the New Madrid Fault. Bill Smith, a U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist, said the Wabash Valley region periodically is struck by small earthquakes, typically ones that are not strong enough to be felt.
"This is much larger than average for the region, but not unprecedented," Smith said.
The strongest earthquake in the region in the last 100 years happened on Nov. 9, 1968. Centered in south-central Illinois, it had a magnitude of 5.4 and was felt in 23 states.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on June 19, 2002.
Digital record of this event (goes to earthquake pages)