WEST SALEM, Ill. – A 5.4-magnitude earthquake that appeared to rival the strongest recorded in the region rocked people up to 450 miles away early Friday, surprising residents unaccustomed to such a powerful Midwest temblor.
The quake just before 4:37 a.m. was centered six miles from West Salem, Ill., and 66 miles from Evansville, Ind. It was felt in such distant cities as Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Des Moines, Iowa, 450 miles northwest of the epicenter, but there were no early reports of injuries or significant damage.
“It shook our house where it woke me up,” said David Behm of Philo, 10 miles south of Champaign. “Windows were rattling, and you could hear it. The house was shaking inches. For people in central Illinois, this is a big deal. It’s not like California.”
Bonnie Lucas, a morning co-host at WHO-AM in Des Moines, said she was sitting in her office when she felt her chair move. She grabbed her desk, and then heard the ceiling panels start to creak. The shaking lasted about 5 seconds, she said.
The quake shook skyscrapers in Chicago’s Loop, 240 miles north of the epicenter, and in downtown Indianapolis, about 160 miles northeast of it.
Irvetta McMurtry of Cincinnati said she felt the rattling for up to 20 seconds.
“All of a sudden, I was awakened by this rumbling shaking,” said McMurtry, 43. “My bed is an older wood frame bed, so the bed started to creak and shake, and it was almost like somebody was taking my mattress and moving it back and forth.”
Lucas Griswold, a dispatcher in West Salem, said the Edwards County sheriff’s department received reports of minor damage and no injuries.
“Oh, yeah, I felt it. It was interesting,” Griswold said. “A lot of shaking.”
Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Todd Ringle in Evansville said there were no immediate reports of damage.
The quake occurred in the Illinois basin-Ozark dome region, which covers parts of Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas and stretches from Indianapolis and St. Louis to Memphis, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The organization’s Web site said earthquakes occur irregularly in the area, and that the largest historical earthquake in the region — also a magnitude 5.4 — caused damage in southern Illinois in 1968.
The region is located in a region bordering the much more seismically active New Madrid seismic zone, according to the geological survey’s Web site. In 1811 and 1812, the New Madrid fault produced a series of earthquakes estimated at magnitude 7.0 or greater.
Experts say another major New Madrid quake could destroy buildings, bridges, roads and other infrastructure, disrupt communications and isolate areas.