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Today's early morning earthquake that jolted many in the central U.S. is a reminder that seismic events do occur in areas not normally thought of as "earthquake country." It is also a lesson that earthquakes east of the Mississippi River are felt more widely than those in the west. This event was felt as far west as Kansas, as far north as Upper Michigan, and as far south as Georgia.
"Earthquakes of comparable size are felt over greater distances in the East than those occurring in the West," said Harley Benz, seismologist for the USGS. "Earthquakes in the central U.S. are infrequent, but not unexpected."
The preliminary magnitude 5.2 earthquake occurred at 4:37 am Central Daylight Time and was centered about 38 miles north-northwest of Evansville, IN or 128 miles east of St. Louis, MO. It occurred in an area known seismically as the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone. Today's event is the strongest earthquake in southern Illinois since November 1968, when a 5.4 earthquake occurred.
Friday's quake was the strongest to hit in the region in 40 years.
There were reports of minor damage in the region.
Video from Louisville, Kentucky showed debris from the ornamental facade of a building's roofline that fell onto a sidewalk and shattered.
People as far north as Chicago and as far west as St. Louis reported feeling the initial quake, the USGS reported.
Classified as "moderate," today's event caused some damage and was followed by aftershocks, the largest a M4.6 that occurred at 10:15 am Central Daylight Time. Of much greater concern, however, is the potential for the adjacent New Madrid seismic zone to generate severe earthquakes. During the winter of 1811-1812, a series of three very large earthquakes — the strongest earthquakes to strike the lower 48 states during historic times — devastated the area and were felt throughout most of the nation. Occurring only a few weeks apart on Dec. 16, Jan. 13, and Feb. 7, they generated hundreds of aftershocks, some severely damaging by themselves, which continued for years.