Chicago earthquake? Quarry blast, 3.2 magnitude shaking reported

What was first thought to be an earthquake came just seconds after a blast at a quarry, but quarry officials say the two events are not connected.
November 6, 2013 1:03:48 PM PST
A mystery in the western suburbs: The earth shook Monday night, registering a magnitude 3.2. What was first thought to be an earthquake came just seconds after a blast at a quarry, but quarry officials say the two events are not connected.

"I was in my office, doing some paperwork, next thing I know, I hear a big bang. Whole floor shook. I went outside to see if somebody hit my building," Mario Licitra, Licitra Roofing Company, said.

"One guy yelled, 'I think a semi hit the building!'" John Licitra, Licitra Roofing Company, said. "Everyone runs outside."

No one was injured and no damage was reported, but the blast registered a 3.2 magnitude seismic event, downgraded from an original 3.7 magnitude.

People from the western suburbs and as far north as Kenosha felt the blast just after 12:30 p.m. Monday afternoon. There is some minor damage.

The quarry is located in McCook. Blasting at a quarry is loud and jarring, but for those who live close by, relatively routine. But Monday was different-- there were two.

"Like ten seconds later, there was a huge blast and my house was shaking like crazy," said Vijay Parikh, Countryside resident.

Monday's tremor knocked ceiling tiles loose from the ceiling of a hot dog joint in Countryside and rattled a bank in LaGrange enough, the manager closed it early.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded just one shake-- magnitude 3.2-- but quarry operator Hanson Materials says there were two: its routine detonation followed seven seconds later by an inexplicable, far more powerful tremor.

"At this time we have no reason to believe there is a connection between our routine blast and the seismic event," Hanson Materials said in a statement.

"We can argue over what came first, the chicken or the egg, but there's got to be a reasonable explanation of why those two things occurred at the time they did," said Jeff Tobolski, McCook mayor.

"This was the worst blast in 38 years," said Linda Lauterbach, LaGrange resident.

LaGrange resident Linda Lauterbach became so concerned about the blasting at the McCook quarry next door, she began keeping a log in June. She says blast patterns have changed but the quarry hasn't offered an explanation.

"They need to figure out why we are hearing these, why we are feeling these so much more and make some adjustments," said Lauterbach.

McCook Quarry is near where the seismic event was recorded. Officials at Hanson Materials Service Quarry in McCook said the company was performing normal blasting operations at 12:35 p.m. Monday when the tremors were felt. However, McCook Quarry said approximately seven seconds after the blast, a separate seismic event was recorded.

"We are reviewing the seismic reading to get a better understanding of what may have occurred. A this time we have no reason to believe there is a connection between our routine blast and the seismic event," Hanson Materials said.

Julie Dutton a seismologist with US Geological Survey said only one seismic event was recorded- the blast. "We see the blast," she said. "No earthquake is detected."

"They are acknowledging that there was an event," McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski said of the quarry. "And that that event was within the defined parameters of their permit."

Tobolski said village has no standing over the quarries, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). They are expected to investigate, Tobolski said.

3.2 magnitude felt miles away

The US Geological Survey originally reported the incident as a 3.7 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter of Indian Head Park, but later changed the website to say it was a quarry blast with a 3.2 magnitude seismic activity.

Whatever the source of the shaking, it was certainly felt.

"It was really quick. The ground kind of like moved a little. I didn't think much of it. I was busy, working. . . Then I heard something from some people that something had happened, and I thought, 'I felt that,'" Alana Patchak said.

"We ran out of the building. And not only were we outside of the building, we saw people at the post office and also the plumbing building behind us. Everybody's checking their building, making sure everything's OK," Deputy Chief Mark Wodka, Hinsdale Police Department, said.

Residents in the west suburbs felt the shaking around 12:35 p.m. The tremors were classified as "light to weak" according to the earthquake.usg.gov shake map.

Check out the USGS ShakeMap.

No damage or injuries have been reported.

ABC7 Facebook fan Pat Kyce-Fisher, who lives in Hodgkins, Ill., wrote, "our mobile home shook about 10-15 minutes ago."

Pam Anderson said she lived by a quarry in Dalton for 20 years but "never recall a blast big enough to register as a possible earthquake."

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