Earthquakes did very little, if any, damage in Illinois

Scott Hilyard

As the second hard-to-ignore, harder-to-accept earthquake of the morning vibrated much of Illinois Friday, animal shelter director Lauren Malmberg made a point to watch the animals in her care. Animals, it is said, are keenly sensitive to seismic activity.

"The dogs and cats were fine," said Malmberg, the director of the Peoria Animal Welfare Shelter. "It’s the people who were going crazy."

Third-shifters, light-sleepers, early-risers and insomniacs experienced a magnitude 5.2 earthquake at 4:36 a.m. Friday — the rest of us slept through it — followed by a magnitude 4.5 aftershock less than six hours later. The epicenter of the quake was 226 miles away from Peoria in Olney, near the Indiana border, but its jarring effects were felt up to 500 miles away. Considered a moderate earthquake, it was the strongest one in Illinois since the magnitude 5.0 earthquake of June 1987. That one originated in the same area of southern Illinois as Friday’s pre-dawn earthquake.

"Earthquakes in the area are infrequent," said Harley Benz, director of the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., in an Internet podcast Friday morning. "But not unexpected."

Only minor damage was reported in southern Illinois. There were no reports of injuries. Vicky Turner, director of Peoria County Emergency Management Agency heard no reports of damage or injury, or anything else for that matter, locally. The only power outage reported by AmerenCILCO was to about 1,500 customers in New Salem, an area close to the epicenter. Service was restored at 6:10 a.m., according to company spokesman Neal Johnson.

While Californians eat a magnitude 5.2 earthquake for a bedtime snack, jittery chandeliers, falling artwork, shaking beds and rumbling floorboards will get the attention of central Illinois residents better versed in the Fujita scale of tornado magnitude than the Richter scale. By mid-morning, before the second temblor, it seemed that virtually every person who felt the quake had told their story to someone who had not. With varying degrees of interest.

The earthquake triggered road maintenance protocols in public works departments across the state. By plan, an earthquake of a magnitude 4.5 or greater sends Illinois Department of Transportation bridge inspectors out into the field, said Shane Larson, operations engineer for District 4, the 12-county district that includes Peoria County. The district’s three bridge experts were roused from bed and on the road long before their Friday shifts were scheduled to begin.

"They inspect the river bridges — one goes to Henry and another goes to Havana and they work their way back to Peoria," Larson said. "Highway crews were out inspecting the smaller bridges looking for any irregularity."

They found none. There are 722 bridges in the district, so most got only a quick peek and drive-over, but they got the quick inspection twice Friday.

"The aftershock was of sufficient magnitude to trigger the second inspection," Larson said.

Peoria Public Works employees inspected the smaller bridges within the city limits Friday, said director David Barber. Like IDOT, city workers found no damage.

"We took a look at the city bridges," Barber said. "Some are small enough, no more than culverts really, that some people don’t even realize are bridges."

Peoria police received 75 calls in the 20 minutes following the first earthquake; 12 to 911, 63 to its non-emergency number, according to police spokeswoman Ann Ruggles.

Bradley University senior Katie McGinn made a call to authorities herself, but to Bradley, not Peoria police.

"(The quake) shook the whole house and it really shook my bed which is right up against a wall," McGinn said. "We thought maybe someone was trying to break into the house. He told us there had just been an earthquake but came over and checked out the house anyway for our peace of mind. We were very appreciative."

If none of the dogs or cats in the PAWS shelter seemed to respond or intuitively react to the mid-morning aftershock, neither did director Malmberg’s own dog, Norman, respond to the earlier, stronger earthquake.

"First I thought (the quake) was a tornado, but then I realized there was no sound. Then I thought maybe a car hit the house. The whole room was moving back and forth," Malmberg said. "Norman never got off the couch."

Scott Hilyard can be reached at (309) 686-3244 or at