No injuries, damage in 3.8-magnitude earthquake

February 10, 2010 9:08:23 PM PST
A 3.8-magnitude earthquake hit Illinois at 4 a.m. Wednesday, with the epicenter just west of Elgin.The epicenter was situated in far west suburban Kane County near Pingree Grove, several miles underground. The quake was initially reported to be a 4.3-magnitude quake centered in Sycamore, Ill., but the U.S. Geological Survey clarified early reports several hours later.

There was no damage in Pingree Grove, which is about 45 miles northwest of Chicago. Some residents said the rumble felt like an 18-wheeler rolling through their living room. Others assumed a train derailed.

A 3.8-magnitude quake is often felt but rarely causes damage.

"We definitely woke up last night," said Bob Gehrke, farm owner.

The US Geological Survey pinpoints the quake's epicenter as 3.1 miles beneath a field on Gehrke's farm.

"When I woke up I heard the noise and shaking a bit but that was about it," said Gehrke. "Nothing damage-wise that I've found."

They say animals sensed the quake was coming, seconds before people felt it.

"I'm particularly glad that it didn't release 90 bulls to freedom," said Mike Goggin, Prairie State Select Sires. "Could've been real bad."

Goggin says he slept right through the earthquake.

Surveillance cameras captured a slight shutter just before 4 a.m. Wednesday. A 2-ton combine didn't move in a video, but the camera did. At Northern Illinois University, the tremor is blamed for a brief power outage that temporarily knocked computer servers offline.

In the nearest town to the epicenter, tiny Pingree Grove, Mayor Clint Carey says the quake is giving residents something to talk about.

"I got phone calls, email, Facebook blew up. Everyone thought snow plows ran into a neighbor's house or there was a natural gas explosion. There were a lot of theories going on," said Clint Carey, Pingree Grove mayor. "It's the biggest thing this week."

Many homes in town are nearly a century old. Still, the quake caused no foundation cracks or other problems in Pingree Grove - just a lot of questions.

"All of a sudden, we both sat straight up in bed and said 'what the heck was that?'" said Sandy Seyller, Pingree Grove resident.

The earthquake registered 3.8 on the Richter Scale. Seismologists say it was felt across into Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana because of the consistency of the earth's crust here in the Midwest. A similar quake in California wouldn't have reverberated as far.

"It's important for us in Illinois because we don't see them very often but someone in California it's not the big one by any stretch of the imagination," said David Voorhees, Waubonsee Community College.

"If It would've been a 5.9 or a 6.9 we might not have been standing here right now," said Gehrke.

"Kind of funny when you find out it was right here, right by us but at the same time with what's been going in with Haiti, it gives you pause to think about that and say, wow, it's nice to be able to just laugh about that," said Beth Gehrke.

According to experts, the Haiti quake was 1600 times the magnitude than the one felt in Northern Illinois.

While the earthquake jolted Illinois residents, few will ever have the excitement that Rod Allen, a science teacher at Da Vinci Academy in Elgin had Wednesday. The seismograph in his classroom is the closest to the epicenter.

"I even got an email from the US Geological Survey. I am closest instrument to the quake, don't have one within 100 meters," said Allen.

To report to the U.S. Geological Survey where and when you may have felt the quake, or if you didn't feel it, go to

The New Madrid fault line runs through Illinois. In April 2008, a 5.2 earthquake hit downstate Illinois in West Salem.

The epicenter of Wednesday's quake is close to a fault zone known as the Sandwich Fault Line. It's far less active and researched than the other line through southern Illinois. Still, there are a lot of century-old homes in the area, so residents were out checking foundations. It's also an area with a lot of natural gas storage facilities. Nicor hadn't reported any problems.

Personal Stories

Joanne Bergman lives in Mokena, but her daughter is not far from the epicenter. She said they both felt it.

"I had just heard my husband leave for work and went back to bed trying to fall asleep for another 40 minutes," Bergman said. "All of a sudden, everything in the house started rattling. I could hear it in the kitchen."

Bergman said at first she thought it was just wind, then she got a call from her daughter near DeKalb.

"Within a minute my daughter called me and, 'Mom, did you feel the earth?' And I'm like, 'Yes!' Very scary, I was more rattled after talking to her. She was in bed sound asleep and keeps her clock radio on her headboard. She is a student up at DeKalb and said her chock radio started rattling, and her bed and everything," Bergman said.

Bergman said her son, who slept in the basement of their Mokena home, did not feel the quake.

"I woke him right away and said, 'Did you feel the earthquake?' He was like, no. He thought I was nuts," Bergman said.

Bergman said the rattling lasted about four to five seconds.

"The only way i can describe it is if a train was running along high speed past our house, where everything was shaking," she said. "I have this big shell on my TV in my room that we got many years ago in the Bahamas, and that was rattling. Nothing has ever made that thing rattle like that."

People downtown reported feeling the quake, too. Writers and producers at ABC7 say they felt their desks rattle, and the executive producer said everything in the office swayed.

"I'm hearing impaired. Something woke me up. It felt like something," said Roseanne Abrams, who lives on the 12th floor of a downtown high-rise. "I ran to the window."

Abrams said the building across the street from her had recently caught fire, and she thought maybe there was another one.

"I went back to bed, and it took me a while to go back to bed because something was wrong," she said. "And now I am finding out what it is."

But some people arriving at Union Station in Chicago Wednesday morning didn't even know the area had experienced an earthquake. One man said he was brushing his teeth when the mirror began to shake. He said he didn't know what was going onuntil he arrived at the train station.

"The front of my mirror rattled as I was brushing my teeth," said Juan Zamarripa. "I thought it was a train accident something like that."

"I thought someone was plowing my front driveway. It was incredible. I was like, huh?" said Pete Smith.

"It was puzzling because I felt the bed shake," said Bernie Talbert. "I thought my wife was moving around, she thought I was moving around, we thought the cat was moving around. And then she said, 'What is that?' I said, 'I bet it's an earthquake.' 'You're nuts.' When I turned on the radio this morning, I heard about it."

"I was in the bed," said Ernestine McCollum. "I felt the shaking. I did not get up, and I heard the windows, you know, like shaking. I said to myself, 'Oh, it's an earthquake, it has to be.' When I turned on the TV, they confirmed it."

"I was a little alarmed. I felt the bed shake, it felt like a tremor. I don't know. Then it stopped," said Priscilla Yee.

"Everything was trembling. My son called me this morning, early, around 6:30. He said his young children woke up, and the 5-year-old was frightened. The house was shaking. He lives in Geneva," said Giovanna Verdecchia.

Not everyone knew about the earthquake even as late as 10 a.m.

"There was an earthquake?" Louis Spence-Smith said. "I was sleeping."

"Is that a serious question?" asked Dan Schmieder, who was unaware of the morning quake. "I was sound asleep."

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