February 12, 2010

Minor Earthquake Hits Northern Illinois

More than seventy people picked up their phones early Wednesday morning and called Naperville 911. It was not the usual reasons like a fire or suspicious activity in the neighborhood, but something not common in Illinois–an earthquake.

Just 27 seconds before 4am, the 3.8 quake took place in rural Kane County near the town of Hampshire, and tremors were felt throughout Naperville and many surrounding areas. In all, more than 18,000 people in 17 states notified the United States Geological Survey they felt shaking or rumbling in their homes, with more than 700 calling from Naperville.

No damage was reported, but many still felt the rumblings.

“I turned to my husband and I said ‘Did you feel that?'” said Karen Lee of Aurora.

“I was sound asleep and my husband woke me up to ask me if our dog was jumping on the bed,” said Debbie Sield of Naperville. “To which I responded ‘Are you crazy? The dog is not on the bed.’ To which he responds ‘Well didn’t you feel that?'”

Others weren’t even disturbed.

When asked on Wednesday if he or his wife felt the quake, Naperville resident Ed Stockman replied “No, we didn’t hear it all. (we) didn’t feel anything. We slept well last night.”

Experts say that tremors from a quake in the Midwest travel much farther distances than those in other places because the bedrock below the surface is flatter and colder.

“If we’re forty miles away from the epicenter, we should feel that energy like six seconds later,” said College of DuPage geology professor Joe Filomena. “So the energy is released, boom, six seconds later we feel it, so it travels very fast through dense and elastic rocks.”

Professionals were not the only ones dissecting the earthquake. Sixth graders at Washington Junior High School have been learning about earthquakes, hurricanes and many more natural disasters in science and english classes in the last few weeks.

Wednesday’s tremors made the students “mini earthquake experts.”

“I was sleeping and I heard the giant boom and my cat ran off my bed,” said sixth grader Charlie Young, “and my parents came in and said ‘That was an earthquake,’ and I was like, ‘Ah! There aren’t any fault lines over here.'”

Others couldn’t get enough of the experience.

“It was awesome!” said Helen Dudley, another Washington student. “I sort of wish another earthquake would happen again so I could feel it.”

The unit on disasters is one of the students’ favorites, and the early morning shakes really made the lessons hit home.

“They come in fired up, ready to go,” said Washington teacher Jason Kowalkowski, “(They say) ‘Did you feel the earthquake?’ you know, that kind of stuff. And what’s interesting is how many personal experiences they bring in from there and the connections they make to their language arts project.”

“Big” earthquake experts say the forecast for future tremors in Illinois is very unpredictable because the underground structure throughout the state has not been studied as extensively as other places where earthquakes are more common.


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