Commonwealth Journal

November 10, 2012

Quake rocks eastern Kentucky

By HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

Cue Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move.”
Many Pulaski County residents just after 12 p.m. Saturday felt the trembling that can only be identified as an earthquake — and soon after that it was confirmed that one had occurred in far eastern Kentucky.
“Thought it was a bulldozer shaking our house — the cat is still scared!” reported Joseph Dobbs through the Commonwealth Journal’s Facebook site. 
According to the U.S. Geological survey, a 4.3 magnitude earthquake, centered at Blackey, located in Letcher County in Eastern Kentucky, occurred at 12:08 p.m. Saturday.
Blackey is located around 10 miles west of Whitesburg. 
The trembling lasted for several seconds — and some say they felt it as long as 15 seconds — and the event sent many to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to report the occurrence.
A request from the Commonwealth Journal to hear from those who felt the tremor garnered more than 200 responses within a short time. 
“My whole house went left to right and my computer table was jumping so I jumped in a doorway just to be safe,” said Science Hill resident Megan Shearer through the CJ’s Facebook page.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the epicenter of the shallow, light earthquake was 0.7 miles deep under Blackey, an Appalachian Mountains town.
The tremor was felt far and wide, with reports coming in from Kentucky as well as Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, and even as far north as Ohio and as far south as Georgia.
Nearly every community within Pulaski County reported feeling a slight to moderate shaking or hearing a rumbling similar to thunder.
Residents in Somerset, Science Hill, Eubank, Tateville, Bronston, Burnside and Nancy, among other Pulaski County communities, reported they’d experienced the earthquake.
“Felt it in the Dahl community (near Shopville),” reported Patty Ping through the CJ’s Facebook page. “Was a bit anxious as we are so near the Sinking Valley cave system” 
There were no immediate reports of significant damage in Eastern Kentucky. 
An earthquake is caused by movement of the earth’s crust, usually along a fault line. 
Although Saturday’s quake was considered relatively minor, it didn’t downplay the response from Kentuckians — many of whom are more familiar with nature’s wrath through events such as tornadoes than through earthquakes.
CJ New Editor Jeff Neal was at home when the tremors hit, and he reported that he “felt it big time. (I) was standing in our room and it felt like the house tilted.”
Residents in Wayne, McCreary, Whitley, Knox, Laurel, Casey and Lincoln counties reported to the CJ that they’d felt the shaking as well.  
Although fewer earthquakes are reported east of the Rocky Mountains than in the western part of the country, the few that do occur in Kentucky historically occur toward the western part of the state near the Madrid Fault Line, which stretches from New Madrid, Missouri to the Southwestern U.S. 
Not this time, though, and there are reports that Saturday’s quake was the strongest to originate in Kentucky since a 5.2 quake that hit Bath County in 1980.
“The center was near my husband’s home growing up,” said Facebook user Sarah Cook on the CJ’s page. “I don’t ever remember an earthquake there.”
Cook said she was born in Letcher County. 
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains, although less frequent than in the West, are typically felt over a much broader region. An earthquake east of the Rockies can be felt over an area as much as 10 times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast. 
A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt in many places as far as 60 miles from where it occurred. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake usually can be felt as far as 300 miles from where it occurred.
Pulaski Countians in 2008 felt the remnants of a 5.2 earthquake centered in southeastern Illinois near the Indiana state line. The 2011 earthquake, measured at a 5.9, that rocked the east coast was felt in parts of Kentucky, but not in Pulaski County.