Quake in Kentucky rattles areas close by

Saturday, June 7, 2003

When the ground began lightly shaking under Stephanie Burton's feet, she thought it was from the roadwork that was going on along Highway 146.

"We thought it was heavy equipment," said the 18-year-old waitress at Courtney's Restaurant. "We didn't even hear about an earthquake until a few hours later."

An earthquake in western Kentucky shook things up in Southern Illinois and across the region early Friday, causing minor damage.

An earthquake measuring 4.5 in magnitude erupted one mile south of Blandville, Ky., at 7:29 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter is about 15 miles south of Cairo at Illinois' southern tip.

While some broadcast reports said that Cape Girardeau residents felt the earthquake, the Cape Girardeau Police Department said it fielded no such reports.

Cairo vibration

But Linda Sullivan, a bookkeeper with Guetterman Motors in Cairo, about 35 miles from Cape Girardeau, felt it from her home in Wickliffe, Ky.

"I had just sat down on the side of the bed to dry my hair and the cat jumped on the bed and I thought it was the cat," she said. "But then I noticed the bed vibrating and knew it had to be something else. But it was over before I was certain what it was."

It was felt as far west as St. Louis' western suburbs, as far north as Alton and as far east as Evansville, Ind., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Residents in Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama also reported feeling the quake.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency said no one was injured and there were no reports of Illinois damage. There were no early reports of injuries in other states, either.

But the earthquake cracked sidewalks, broke windows and knocked pictures off walls in western Kentucky, said Donna Laird, the emergency management director for Carlisle County in that state.

And it jolted some in Cairo awake Friday morning, including Alexander County's emergency services coordinator, Bobby Mayberry.

"Something fell off the dresser in my bedroom and made the house shake," Mayberry said. "I've felt earthquakes before, and this was far the strongest."

Although the Cairo Police Department's emergency services coordinator fielded 35 to 40 phone calls from worried residents Friday morning, everyone was OK, said Marty Nicholson.

"It was a good wake-up call," she said. "We need to be prepared for these things."

Gary Patterson, a geologist with the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis, said those who worry about the New Madrid Fault shouldn't worry about this being a precursor for a bigger quake.

"Nobody thinks this is a precursor or that any of the activity is out of the ordinary," he said. "This doesn't look like anything that should cause alarm."

But he did say this should be a reminder that this is "earthquake country."

"Damaging earthquakes will likely occur again," he said. "We don't know where or when exactly. But history is enough to know we should be concerned."

Business editor Scott Moyers contributed to this report.

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