Illinois Earthquake History

The earliest report of an Illinois earthquake is of a shock in 1795 felt at Kaskaskia for a minute and a half. Subterranean noises were heard. It was also felt in Kentucky. Due to the sparse frontier population, an accurate location is not possible and the shock may have originated outside the State.

Among the largest earthquakes occurring in Illinois was the May 26, 1909, shock which knocked over many chimneys at Aurora. It was felt over 500,000 square miles and strongly felt in Iowa and Wisconsin. Buildings swayed in Chicago where there was fear that the walls would collapse. Beds moved on their casters.

Just under two months later a second intensity VII earthquake struck on July 18, knocking down chimneys in Petersburg, Illinois, and at Hannibal, Missouri, and Davenport, Iowa. Over twenty windows were broken, bricks loosened and plaster cracked in the Petersburg area. It was felt over only 40,000 square miles.

On August 14, 1965, a sharp but local shock occurred at Tamms, a town of about 600 people. The magnitude 5 shock broke chimneys, cracked walls, knocked groceries from the shelves, and muddied the water supply. Thunderous earth noises were heard. It was felt only at Elco, Unity, Olive Branch, and Olmstead, all towns less than 10 miles away. Six aftershocks were felt. It is interesting to compare this shock with the May 26, 1909, shock and the 1968 shock described below: all had maximum intensities of VII but two had abnormally large felt areas more than 100 times larger than that of the Tamms earthquake.

An earthquake of intensity VII occurred on November 9, 1968. A magnitude 5.3 shock, it was felt over 580,000 square miles in 23 states. There were reports of people in tall buildings in Ontario and Boston feeling the shock.

Damage consisted of bricks being knocked from chimneys, broken windows, toppled television antennae, and cracked plaster. There were scattered reports of cracked foundations, fallen parapets, and over-turned tombstones. Chimney damage was limited to buildings 30 to 50 years old. Many people were frightened. Church bells rang and the characteristic "X" cracks were observed at Broughton and several other towns. Loud rumbling earthquake noise was reported from many communities.

An intensity VI - VII earthquake occurred on April 12, 1883, awakening every one in Cairo. One old frame house was shaken down, resulting in slight injury to the inhabitants, the only record of injury in the State due to earthquakes.

The possibility of damage to parts of Illinois from earthquakes originating outside the State is dominated by the threat of a repeat of the 1811 - 1812 New Madrid great earthquakes, which were felt over at least 2 million square miles from Canada to New Orleans, and in Boston and Washington, D.C. There are few reports from the area, but intensities VII to IX could have been experienced over the entire State.

A Missouri earthquake on November 4, 1905, cracked walls in Cairo. Aftershocks were felt over 100,000 square miles in nine states. In Illinois it cracked the wall of the new education building in Cairo and a wall at Carbondale.

On November 7, 1958, a shock along the Indiana border resulted in damage at Bartelso, Dale and Maunie. Plaster cracked and fell, and a basement wall and floor were cracked.

Dozens of other shocks originating in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Canada have been felt in Illinois without causing damage.

[Abridged from Earthquake Information Bulletin, Volume 4, Number 3, May-June 1972.] 1804 Aug 20 20:10 4.4M Intensity VI
Fort Dearborn (Chicago), Illinois ( 42.0N 87.8W )
The earthquake was felt at the south end of Lake Michigan and at Fort Wayne, Ind. (about 320 km from the epicenter).

1838 Jun 9 14:45 5.2M Intensity VII
Southern Illinois ( 38.5N 89.0W )
Several catalogs place the epicenter of this earthquake near St. Louis, Mo., because of a report of a chimney being thrown down at St. Louis and because it was "severely felt" at St. Charles, Mo. Although reported effects do not support an intensity of VII, that intensity is assigned because of the similarity of the distribution of intensity to that of the earthquake of Oct. 8, 1857. Felt reports recorded at common points are one-half to one unit of intensity higher for the 1857 earthquake. Also felt in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky.

1857 Oct 8 10:00 4.9M Intensity VII
Southern Illinois ( 38.7N 89.2W )
This severe earthquake was centered in the Mississippi River valley between St. Louis, Mo., and Centralia, Ill. At Centralia, the first of three reported shocks threw down chimneys; at St. Louis, it moved furniture, dislocated bricks, and felled plaster. The largest buildings rocked and articles fell from mantles. Reports indicate that the Mississippi River was in tumult. Felt in many towns in Illinois, along the Mississippi River south of Hannibal, Mo., in western Kentucky, and in parts of Indiana and Iowa.

1876 Sep 25 06:00 4.5M Intensity VI
Wabash River Valley (Illinois) ( 38.5N 87.8W )
(06:00 and 06:15) These earthquakes were felt most strongly between Friendsville and Mt. Carmel, Ill., and Evansville, Ind. They were described as "heavy" at Friendsville. The second shock threw down chimneys at Vincennes, Ind., alarmed residents at Evansville, Ind., and caused slight damage at Louisville and Owensboro, Ky. They were felt from St. Louis, Mo., to Indianapolis, Ind., and Louisville, Ky.

1876 Sep 25 06:15 4.8M Intensity VII
Wabash River valley (Illinois) ( 38.5N 87.8W )
See 1876 09 25 06:00.

1881 Jun 27 00:00 4.6M Intensity VI
La Salle, Illinois ( 41.3N 89.1W )
Before daybreak, a shock in the southwest part of La Salle, about 90 km northeast of Peoria, formed six parallel fissures that were traceable for 183 m in a northwest-southeast direction. Walls, foundations and furnaces in bottle and glass factories cracked in many places.

1882 Sep 27 10:20 4.4M Intensity VI
Southern Illinois ( 39.0N 89.5W )
A chimney was cracked severely at Greenfield, Green County, Ill., and a crack in the wall of a building was widened considerably at Salem, Marion County. People were awakened and small objects were displaced throughout the area. The felt area extended from Mexico, Mo., to Vincennes, Ind., and Henderson, Ky., in an east-west direction, and from Springfield to Pickneyville, Ill., in a north-south direction.

1883 Apr 12 08:36 Intensity VI
Cairo, Illinois ( 37.0N 89.2W )
A strong local earthquake rattled windows for 30 seconds and awakened everyone in Cairo, in southern Illinois near the Kentucky-Missouri border. People were injured slightly in the collapse of an old frame house.

1887 Aug 2 18:36 4.9M Intensity VI
Southern Illinois ( 37.2N 88.5W )
This severe shock broke windows at Cobden, Ill., cracked brick walls at Jonesboro, Ill., and Russellville, Ky., and loosened some plaster at Nashville, Tenn. Also felt in Indiana and Missouri and as far south as Huntsville, Ala.

1891 Sep 27 04:55 5.2M Intensity VII
Near Mount Vernon, Illinois ( 38.250N 88.5W )
Several chimneys were toppled at Mount Vernon, and the ceiling and sidewalls of the Methodist Church were damaged. Chimney damage also was reported at Browns and Nashville, Ill., and Cloverport, Ky. Plaster was knocked down at Jerseyville, Murphysboro, and Warsaw, Ill. Also felt in all or parts of Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee.

1903 Feb 9 00:21 4.9M Intensity VII
Mississippi River Valley (Illinois) ( 37.8N 89.3W )
This earthquake threw down chimneys in Jackson County at Grand Tower and Murphysboro, Ill., and damaged chimneys east of Murphysboro, at Carterville and Harrisburg, Ill. It was strongly felt from Jeffersonville, Mo. to Louisville, Ky., and from Cairo, Ill., to Hannibal, Mo.

1905 Aug 22 05:08 4.8M Intensity VI
Southern Illinois ( 37.2N 89.3W )
Chimneys were shaken down at Cairo, Pulaski County, Ill, and about 40 km southwest, at Sikeston, Mo. Chimneys also were broken or partly collapsed at nearby Charleston, Mo., and about 175 km southeast, at Clarksville, Tenn. The earthquake was felt most strongly along the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys, including parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

1909 Jun 26 14:42 5.1M Intensity VII
Aurora, Illinois ( 41.6N 88.1W )
This earthquake has been related to the La Salle anticline in the Illinois Basin. Many chimneys fell, a stove overturned, and gas line connections broke at Aurora, west of Chicago. Several chimneys were downed at Forreston, Naperville, Streator, Triumph, and Troy Grove, and one fell at Waukegan. Brick walls cracked at Bloomington, and sidewalks cracked and many chimneys were damaged at Freeport. At Platteville, Wis., about 130 km northwest of Chicago, an old building was cracked; houses were jostled out of plumb at Beloit, Wis., about 240 km northwest of Chicago. Felt from Missouri to Michigan and Minnesota to Indiana.

1909 Jul 19 04:34 4.8M Intensity VII
Between Havana and Petersburg, Illinois ( 40.2N 90.0W )
Chimneys were demolished on more than 100 buildings in Menard County at Petersburg, northwest of Springfield. At a farm west of Petersburg, 20 windows broke and bricks pushed out above the doors. Fallen chimneys also were reported northwest of Springfield at Davenport, Iowa, and west of Springfield at Hannibal, Mo. Several newspaper articles describe this earthquake but do not report property damage.

1912 Jan 2 16:21 4.5M Intensity VI
Near Aurora, Freeport, Morris, and Yorkville, Illinois? ( 41.5N 88.5W )
The highest intensity was reported at those towns in Kane, Stephenson, Grundy, and Kendall Counties, respectively. Slight damage to chimneys was reported at Batavia and Geneva, Ill., north of Aurora, in Kane County. Two distinct shocks were observed at some places. The stronger shock also was felt in parts of Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky (Fulton County), and Wisconsin.

1917 Apr 9 20:52 5.1M Intensity VII
Southern Illinois in the Mississippi River valley ( 38.1N 90.2W )
At St. Louis, Mo., several chimneys were knocked down, windows were broken, and people were thrown to the pavement. At Granite City, Mo., buildings shifted on their foundations. At DeSoto, Mo., in Jefferson County, bricks fell from chimneys and the walls of several buildings were cracked. Many windows were broken and buildings rocked at Ste. Genevieve and St. Mary, Mo., south of St. Louis near the Illinois border. Heavy rumbling preceded and accompanied the earthquake in places. Felt from Kansas to Ohio and from Wisconsin to Mississippi.

1922 Mar 22 22:29 4.8M Intensity VII
Southern Illinois ( 37.4N 89.4W )
This strong earthquake knocked down 25 chimneys at Illmo, Scott County, Mo., and sent people rushing out of stores. Dishes fell from shelves at Carbondale, Ill. Also felt in Kentucky and Tennessee.

1922 Mar 23 02:22 4.6M Intensity VI
Southern Illinois ( 37.4N 89.4W )
At Illmo, Mo., south of Cape Girardeau in Scott County, the earthquake knocked down "many more chimneys" (see description of the main shock on Mar. 22, 1922). The shock was "violent" at Belleville, Ill., and "severe" at Jonesboro, Ill. Stovepipes were downed at Cape Girardeau, Mo., and people were knocked off their feet. Also felt at Evansville, Ind.

1922 Nov 27 03:31 4.8M Intensity VII
Near Eldorado, Illinois ( 37.8N 88.5W )
The earthquake broke several windows and downed chimneys at Eldorado. One chimney flue was demolished and stovepipes fell at Harrisburg, 8 km southwest of Eldorado. Generally felt in southern Illinois, western Indiana, northern Kentucky, eastern Missouri, and western Tennessee.

1934 Nov 12 14:45 4.0M Intensity VI
Near Rock Island, Illinois ( 41.5N 90.5W )
In Rock Island and Moline, Ill., and Davenport, Iowa, bricks fell from a few chimneys and pendulum clocks stopped. In Rock Island, a stucco cornice was dislodged from St. Joseph's School; some loose plaster was shaken from ceilings in the men's dormitory at Augustana College, and loose bricks were shaken from a few buildings.

1939 Nov 23 15:14 4.6M Intensity V
Near Griggs, Illinois ( 38.180N 90.137W )
[Listed without Summary in SUS. Summary from EHUS.] Intensity just short of damage. Affected area included most of Illinois, Missouri, and parts of Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Iowa.

1947 Jun 30 04:23 4.2M Intensity VI
Waterloo-Dupo, Illinois, area, south of Saint Louis, Missouri ( 38.4N 90.2W )
At St. Louis, several chimneys were toppled and a sidewalk was cracked.

1953 Sep 11 18:26 4.0M Intensity VI
Southwest Illinois ( 38.8N 90.1W )
At Roxana, north of East St. Louis, in Madison County, cracks formed in a concrete-block foundation and in plaster. Also felt in eastern Missouri.

1955 Apr 9 13:01 4.3M Intensity VI
West of Sparta, Illinois ( 38.232N 89.785W )
Concrete foundations and plaster walls were cracked at Evansville, Ill. (about 20 km west of Sparta), and at Lemay, University City, and Webster Groves, Mo. Also felt in Kentucky and Missouri.

1958 Nov 8 02:41 4.4M Intensity VI
Southeast Illinois, near Indiana border ( 38.436N 88.8W )
Plaster fell at Dale (Hamilton County) and Albion (Edwards County), and a basement wall cracked at Maunie (White County). Also felt in Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri.

1965 Aug 14 13:13 3.4M Intensity VII
Southwest Illinois ( 37.226N 89.307W )
This strong local earthquake at Tamms (Alexander County) downed chimneys, cracked walls, muddied water, and knocked stock from shelves.

1968 Nov 9 17:01 5.2M Intensity VII
Southern Illinois ( 37.911N 88.373W )
This was the strongest felt earthquake in southern Illinois since the 1895 Missouri event. Property damage in the area consisted mainly of fallen bricks from chimneys, broken windows, toppled television aerials, and cracked or fallen plaster. In the epicentral area, near Dale, Hamilton County, MM intensity VII was characterized by downed chimneys, cracked foundations, overturned tombstones, and scattered instances of collapsed parapets.

Most buildings that sustained damage to chimneys were 30 to 50 years old. A large two-story brick house near Dale, Ill., sustained several thousand dollars damage. About 10 km west of Dale, near Tuckers Corners, a concrete and brick cistern collapsed. A large amount of masonry damage occurred at the City Building at Henderson, Ky., 80 km east-southeast of the epicenter. Moderate damage to chimneys and walls occurred in several towns in south-central Illinois, southwest Indiana, and northwest Kentucky. Felt over all or parts of 23 States: from southeast Minnesota to central Alabama and Georgia and from western North Carolina to central Kansas. People in multistory buildings in Boston, Mass. and southern Ontario, Canada, felt the earthquake.

1972 Sep 15 05:22 4.0M Intensity VI
Northern Illinois ( 41.645N 89.369W )
Cracks in chimneys, tombstones, elevated water tanks, and plaster occurred at Amboy (Lee County), south of Rockford. Chimney and plaster cracks were observed at Holcomb, northeast of Amboy, in Ogle County. Also felt in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

1974 Apr 3 23:05 4.3M Intensity VI
Southeast Illinois ( 38.549N 88.072W )
Minor damage, generally in the form of cracked and broken chimneys, occurred in Wabash County. At West Salem, a few chimneys and tombstones were shaken down and other chimneys were damaged. Slight damage occurred at many towns in Indiana and Illinois. Also felt in Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

1984 Jun 29 07:58 4.1M Intensity VI
Southern Illinois ( 37.7N 88.470W )
At Harrisburg, in Saline County, one house sustained structural damage. Also felt in western Kentucky and southeast Missouri.

[The above summaries were abridged from Seismicity of the United States, 1568-1989 (Revised), by Carl W. Stover and Jerry L. Coffman, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1527, United States Government Printing Office, Washington: 1993 and from Preliminary Determinations of Epicenters Monthly Listing.]

2002 Earthquake The earthquake originated in the Illinois basin-Ozark dome region, which covers areas in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas and also extends through Indianapolis, St. Louis and Memphis.

In addition to reports of earthquake effects from southwestern Michigan, Sigala said reports made to the USGS indicated that the earthquake could also be felt as far away as Milwaukee, St. Louis and even throughout parts of Georgia.
Instances of cracks in the roadway in southern Illinois and damage to homes around the earthquake’s center in Wabash County are among the reported damage today, Thompson said.According to the USGS, the strongest earthquake on record with an epicenter in Illinois occurred in 1968, when a 5.3-magnitude temblor was recorded about 75 miles southeast of St. Louis. The damage was minor but widespread and there were no serious injuries.

USGS records indicate that the last quakes of this magnitude were felt in the Michigan area in 2002 and 1987. The 2002 earthquake reached a 5.0 and the 1987 quake registered at a 5.1.

April 18, 2008 Residents throughout central Illinois and neighboring states felt at least one aftershock Friday, hours after a 5.2 magnitude earthquake rattled skyscrapers in Chicago's Loop and homes in Cincinnati. No major injuries or damage were reported.

The follow-up tremor registered at 4.5 on the Richter Scale, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. At least three other aftershocks were measured at 2.5, 2.5, and 2.6, the National Earthquake Center reported. At least 21 states felt the initial quake just before 4:37 a.m., centered six miles from West Salem, Ill., and 66 miles from Evansville, Ind.

The quake was believed to have involved the Wabash fault, a northern extension of the New Madrid fault about 6 miles north of Mt. Carmel, IL.

The last earthquake in the region to approach the severity of Friday's temblor was a 5.0 magnitude quake that shook a nearby area in 2002.

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