Remembering the 2008 5.2 Earthquake that Shook the Evansville Area
Yesterday, there was an earthquake in western Indiana measuring a 3.8 on the Richter scale. Melissa shared the details of it here, but it brought to mind my own experience with an earthquake back in 2008.
On April 18, 2008, at 4:26 am Central Standard Time, I was asleep in my bed in my hometown of Mount Carmel. My daughter, who was just a few months away from her ninth birthday was sound asleep in her own bed across the hall.
It Sounded Like a Freight Train
At 4:27 am CST, I woke to the sound of my lamp rattling on my nightstand. I was disoriented and confused by the sound I was hearing from outside the house. It sounded like a freight train. Having grown up in the midwest, and having witnessed severe weather in the past, my first groggy thought was that it was a tornado.
That's When the Shaking Started
I sat up in bed, trying to get my thoughts together, and that's when the shaking started. At the same instant that I flung myself out of bed and my feet hit the floor, my daughter started screaming for me in the next room. The sheer terror in her voice is something that I will never forget and it still gives me chills to think about even 13 years later.
Still half asleep and being driven by pure adrenaline, I rushed to my daughter's room where I quickly slid my arms under her neck and her knees and scooped her out of the bed. I didn't have time to think and honestly, if it weren't for my "lizard brain" taking over, I'm not sure I would have even known what to do.
I Could Feel the Ground Rolling
It didn't feel so much like the house was shaking but more like the ground underneath was rolling in waves and the roar of it was deafening. At this point, I rush out of her room and immediately move us both to the doorway that separated the living room from the dining room of our tiny 1930s home. There were 4 or 5 other doorways in the house, but some part of my brain knew that this was the one we needed to stand in. As it turns out, despite not knowing anything about building houses or structural architecture, I had instinctually chosen the doorway on the main, load-bearing wall of the tiny house.
We braced ourselves in the doorway for what felt like an eternity. In truth, it was probably only 20-30 seconds. When the roaring and the rumbling stopped, I made my daughter climb underneath the dining room table in case there were any aftershocks and I went to the front door to peer outside. I still wasn't completely convinced that what we had just experienced was an earthquake.
Could It Have Been the Power Plant?
Still not convinced that we had just ridden out an earthquake, I needed to peak outside because less than two miles away from the house was (is) one of the largest, coal-fueled power plants in the country. In fact, Gibson Station is Duke Energy's largest power plant in the entire United States. If I was wrong and it wasn't an earthquake, it could have potentially been an explosion at the power plant, and if that was the case, I wasn't sure that being in a doorway of a load bearing wall or under the dining room table was the safest place for us. When I looked out, everything appeared to be perfectly normal at Gibson Station.
A 5.2 Earthquake
It was later, after several aftershocks, that we learned that what we had experienced was an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.2 on the Richter scale. In 2008, I didn't have a Facebook page where I could go and see reactions and posts from my friends like I can now. I had to wait for news reports and search for the US Geological Society's website to try to figure out exactly what we had experienced.
It was through the USGS website that I learned that the epicenter of that quake was less than 10 miles from my home. Later, I would find out that it was felt in Evansville, Louisville, Chicago, and even as far away as Michigan, Kansas and Georgia. It turns out, we were (are) living in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
It Wasn't the First and Definitely Not the Last
Living in the largest fault zone east of the Rocky Mountains, that 5.2 earthquake on April 18, 2008 wasn't the first - or even the biggest seismic event in this area. On Halloween 1895 there was a 6.2 earthquake that was felt as far aways as Pittsburg and New Orleans, according to the Illinois State Geological Survey. There have been earthquakes regularly in the region both on the New Madrid and the Wabash Valley Fault line. There was a 5.0 in Southern Illinois in 1987. There was a 3.6 in 2012 and a 3.8 in 2017. Knowing how frequently there is seismic activity, makes yesterday's 3.8 less of a shock that it happened, although still unnerving nonetheless.
In the event that you find yourself in an earthquake survival situation, Melissa included some safety recommendations from Ready.gov in her story about yesterday's 3.8.