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Midwest Earthquake Hits During News Broadcast

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Residents across the Midwest were awakened Friday by a 5.2 magnitude earthquake that rattled skyscrapers in Chicago's Loop and homes in Cincinnati but appeared to cause no major injuries or damage.

Dozens of aftershocks followed, one with a magnitude of 4.5.

The earthquake hit during a local news broadcast. Watch it here.

The quake just before 4:37 a.m. was centered six miles from West Salem, Ill., and 45 miles from Evansville, Ind. It was felt in such distant cities as Milwaukee, Des Moines, Iowa, and Atlanta, nearly 400 miles to the southeast.

"It shook our house where it woke me up," said David Behm of Philo, 10 miles south of Champaign. "Windows were rattling, and you could hear it. The house was shaking inches. For people in central Illinois, this is a big deal. It's not like California."

In West Salem itself, a chimney on one house fell and there were reports of cracks in walls. "We're very thankful we had no one injured," said Harvey Fenton, the town's police and fire chief.

He was at first unsure what to make of the sudden rumbling when it woke him up.

"A major shaking is the best way I can describe it," said Fenton, 58.

Fifteen miles to the southeast, in Mount Carmel, a woman was trapped in her home by a collapsed porch but was quickly freed and wasn't hurt, said police dispatcher Mickie Smith. A century-old apartment building there, a former schoolhouse, was evacuated because of loose and falling bricks.

Bonnie Lucas, a morning co-host at WHO-AM in Des Moines, said she was sitting in her office when she felt her chair move. She grabbed her desk, and then heard the ceiling panels start to creak. The shaking lasted about 5 seconds, she said.

The quake is believed to have involved the Wabash fault, a northern extension of the New Madrid fault about six miles north of Mount Carmel, Ill., said United States Geological Survey geophysicist Randy Baldwin.

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.

"This is a fairly large quake for this region," Baldwin said. "They might occur every few years."

It was initially reported as a 5.4-magnitude earthquake, but the USGS later revised its estimate to 5.2.

"This was widely felt, all the way to Atlanta, a little bit in Michigan," said USGS geophysicist Carrieann Bedwell.

In Cincinnati, Irvetta McMurtry said she felt the rattling for up to 20 seconds.

"All of a sudden, I was awakened by this rumbling shaking," said McMurtry, 43. "My bed is an older wood frame bed, so the bed started to creak and shake, and it was almost like somebody was taking my mattress and moving it back and forth."

In Louisville, Ky., the quake caused some bricks to fall off a building near downtown. Television video showed them strewn in the street.

In Chicago, officials were checking structures to ensure there was no damage. The quake also shook skyscrapers in downtown Indianapolis, about 160 miles northeast of the epicenter.

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, according the USGS. The damage was minor but widespread and there were no serious injuries.

In 1811 and 1812, the New Madrid fault produced a series of earthquakes estimated at magnitude 7.0 or greater said to be felt as far away as Boston. They were centered in the Missouri town of New Madrid (pronounced MAD rid), 140 miles southeast of St. Louis.

Experts say that with the much higher population in the Midwest, another major quake along the New Madrid fault zone could destroy buildings, bridges, roads and other infrastructure, disrupt communications and isolate areas.