Earthquake Rattles Area Residents
Tremor was felt far from epicenter near Evansville, but it caused little damage

By Steve Hinnefeld
Herald Times Staff Writer

Published June 19, 2002

 

An earthquake centered in southwestern Indiana gave the Bloomington area a shake Tuesday and was felt as far away as Chicago and Memphis, Tenn.

The quake, rated at a magnitude of 5.0 by the U.S. Geological Survey, took place at 12:37 p.m. Its epicenter was near the town of Darmstadt, about 10 miles northwest of Evansville.

The only damage reported immediately was cracked chimneys and broken glass in the Evansville area, said Alden Taylor, spokesman for the Indiana State Emergency Management Agency.

Terry Stigall, who works at the seismograph station at the Indiana University Geology Department, guessed the magnitude would be upgraded to 5.1 or 5.2. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, it was reportedly felt in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The quake knocked the pens off the paper on the IU seismograph, which is sensitive enough to record distant seismographic events.

Some Bloomington residents felt a mild but pronounced shaking that continued for a few seconds, but others felt nothing.

Bonnie Tinsley was eating lunch at Faith Lutheran Church on South High Street when she felt the floor shake. Pastor Lawrence Mitchell felt the shaking in his office. Tinsley called police to see if a quake had been reported.

"Nothing was broken or anything, but in the kitchen you heard the dishes rattle," she said.

Her call was one of at least 50 fielded by the Bloomington Police Department, coming from That Road southwest of town to Anderson Road in northern Monroe County. But until the quake was confirmed, the department had no answers for anxious callers.

"People had things falling from the shelves and the walls," said records clerk Michelle Wellman. "One woman said her shelves actually fell of the kitchen wall."

One caller told Wellman his family was just sitting down to lunch when everything began shaking around them, and continued trembling for about 20 seconds.

"He said they put their hands on the table because they didn't know what was going to happen next," she said. "He said it was that intense."

In downtown Bloomington, Louanne Holladay felt the building shake while working in the second-floor office of the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival.

"I was sitting there and I thought it was a big truck rolling by," she said. "Then it didn't feel right. There was a half-full bottle of water on the computer desk in front of me, and the water kept sloshing."

Marla Sandys was at the computer in her home in western Monroe County when she felt the shaking. "I could hear the glass shaking in the other room," she said. "That's how I knew it wasn't just my computer acting up."

Some employees at the Statehouse in Indianapolis reported feeling the quake.

Near the epicenter, Evansville-area residents reported hearing a loud noise, followed by a vibration that caused buildings to move and, in at least one case, rang the bells in a church steepls. But life quickly returned to routine.

"Everybody seems to be back to cutting grass and doing what they was doing," said Johnny Ligtett, head of town maintenance in Darmstadt. "Everything seems pretty normal right now."

Greg Steiner, technical director of the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis, said the tremor was widely felt across Tennessee. "Most reported a gently rolling motion," Steiner said. "but up close it was enough to scare people out of buildings and homes."

There were reports of pictures falling from walls in southern Illinois and vases shaking on a countertop in Cincinnati.

In Louisville, Ky., Jerrod Pratt, who works the night shift at a Ford Co. assembly plant, said the quake shook him from his sleep but didn't appear to damage his house.

"I was laying in my bed and my bed was shaking, my house was shaking," Pratt said. "I looked out my window and my neighbors were all standing outside looking around."

Maj. Tom Wallis of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department said authorities were checking bridges and other structures for damages.

Wallis said he felt the quake from his office.

"We were shaking, rattling and rolling," Wallis said. "I thought it was Jerry Lee Lewis doing the big one."

The Associated Press and H-T Reporter Paula Freund contributed to this story.
Reporter Steve Hinnefeld can be reached at 331-4374 or by email at hinnefeld@heraldt.com.


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