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Quake Felt in Six States Along New Madrid Fault; No Major Damage

September 26, 1990

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ An earthquake shook parts of Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Indiana this morning, but no major damage was reported.

The quake was felt at at 8:19 a.m. CDT. It registered 4.6 on the Richter scale and was centered along the New Madrid fault 40 miles north of New Madrid, Mo., according to Don Kelly, a spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va.

New Madrid has been the site of some of the greatest earthquakes in U.S. history. The New Madrid fault line runs from Marked Tree, Ark., to southern Illinois and has hundreds of small quakes every year.

Although there were no accounts of damage, the temblor rattled nerves throughout the region, which has been on edge about predictions of a major quake.

Kenneth Rutledge, who lives 16 miles east of Hopkinsville, Ky., said he was sitting in his living room when the quake hit.

″I’m telling you it moved me,″ he said.

Leonard Nash, who was visiting a farm in Piggott in northeastern Arkansas, said: ″You could feel it and hear things moving in the house. It lasted just a few seconds.

″It didn’t excite us too much. It wasn’t anything that was that frightening. We just looked at each other, said ‘Hey, that was an earthquake’ and continued our talking.″

Scott Chambers, the director of Emergency Medical Services in Corning, Ark., said he felt the temblor at the local hospital.

″It was about like standing real close to a train track when a train comes by, a little harder than that,″ he said.

Three or four cataclysmic earthquakes struck the New Madrid fault in the winter of 1811-12 and were felt as far away as Boston. They have been estimated at about 8 on the Richter scale, which didn’t exist at the time.

There have been predictions that an earthquake is likely along the New Madrid fault before the end of the century. Recently, a scientist in New Mexico predicted that a major quake could occur in early December, prompting increases in insurance sales and other preparatory measures.

Other experts dispute his theory of a tidal trigger to earthquakes but say a major quake in the region is bound to happen eventually.

″I don’t think this is a precursor to a larger event,″ Elaine Foust of the U.S. Geological Survey in Nashville said today. ″But we could flip a coin and decide. I’m not God, I can’t predict.″

Cecil Whaley, operations officer for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency in Nashville, also pooh-poohed the five-second shake.

″People who live on solid rock probably did not feel it,″ Whaley said. ″This appears to be normal . . . We have small ones two or three times a week, usually imperceptible.″

In Indiana, a dispatcher said the Evansville Police Department had received about 60 calls from concerned citizens shortly after the quake, but had received no reports of damage.

Dan Moran felt the quake at the Evansville Museum of Arts and Sciences, which is featuring an earthquake exhibit this fall.

″Maybe this will help grab people’s attention again about the inevitability of earthquakes,″ Moran said.

The Richter scale is a gauge of the energy released by an earthquake, as measured by the ground motion recorded on a seismograph.

Every increase of one number, say from magnitude 5.5 to magnitude 6.5, means that the ground motion is 10 times greater. Some experts say the actual amount of energy released may be 30 times greater. A quake of magnitude 4 can cause moderate damage. A quake of magnitude 5 is capable of considerable damage.

Last October’s earthquake in San Francisco registered 7.1.

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