A 5.2-magnitude earthquake hit Illinois early Friday morning. A second quake, registering at 4.5 on the Richter Scale, was also felt later in the day.
Residents of Illinois got an early-morning wakeup call Friday as two earthquakes shook the state. The quakes were centered near West Salem in the southeastern part of the state.
“I thought it was a tornado,” said Jen Runyon, of Olney, which is about 20 miles from the epicenter.
She said she grabbed her husband and ran out of their house. “All of our neighbors were outside,” she said, adding that some people initially wondered if it was a sonic boom.
The first quake, which hit just after 4:30 in the morning, registered at 5.2 on the Richter Scale. A second quake, of 4.5 magnitude, was reported at about 10:15 a.m. The first earthquake is one of the strongest ever reported in Illinois. No serious damage was reported.
Lisa Ridgely, who lives south of Olney, said she and her family woke up at 4:36 a.m. with their house shaking.
“No one knew what to do,” she said, adding that she also thought there was a tornado. “We kind of all just met in the dining room, not knowing what to do.” Pictures fell off their walls, but there was no major damage to their home, she added.
Ridgely said she has never felt anything like that before. “It was a scary feeling,” she said. “My legs were shaking.”
Mike Wiese, of Olney, said he woke to his house shaking, but found nothing damaged. His father, Dave Wiese, who was visiting from Washington state, said it took him a moment to realize what he was feeling was not the house settling, but an earthquake.
Dave Wiese said he experienced the 6.8 earthquake in Washington when it hit on Feb. 28, 2001. “That was a lot more powerful,” he said. “It was hard to stand up, it was so violent.”
Christina Fehrenbacher, of Olney, was sleeping when the earthquake hit. She said it sounded like “the roof was going to cave in.”
“I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I’m just kind of like speechless.”
She said that while in Las Vegas during her service in the Air Force, she felt a minor earthquake, but nothing like she experienced this morning.
In other parts of the state, windows rattled, beds shook, family pets woke up and knickknacks tumbled off shelves. Springfield-area residents said they were unsure what was happening when they were rousted from sleep this morning by the eerie tremors of an earthquake.
“It literally felt like a giant had grabbed my house in both hands and shook it back and forth,” said Joe Underwood of Pawnee.
“I thought maybe the cat was on the bed or under it, so I sat up. About five seconds later the whole house started shaking, felt like it was sliding off its frame,” said Christopher Smith, who lives on Springfield’s north end.
The Rev. Don Meehling of St. Aloysius Parish off Sangamon Avenue also was startled by the rumbling.
“I spent the earthquake watching a bouquet of roses dance on my coffee table," he said.
"I was awake saying my prayers and checking the early news on my computer when we started to make the news with the lots of motion among things that are accustom to standing still,” he said. “Surprised would be the word, but also in awe of the mighty power of God! Whoopie, hold on, quite a ride for a few seconds.”
Joe and Debbie Gibbons, fresh to Springfield from California, said the quake made them feel like they were home again.
“We felt a light but long shaking. We were both surprised at the length of the quake, as usually in California they are not that long. There is no damage, and while the dog was spooked and barking, the four birds that we have did not even make a sound. In the past they would have been very stressed,” they said.
The earthquake brought back memories for Gretchen Henderson of Galesburg.
She was in San Francisco in 1989 when a major earthquake struck the Bay Area, killing close to 70 people, injuring nearly 4,000 and leaving 12,000 homeless.
She awoke this morning to her bed shaking and thought it might be related to a train passing by. Not until she got up several hours later and went online did she realize there’d been an earthquake.
“It was just kind of surprising,” Henderson said.
But compared to the San Francisco earthquake, Henderson said this was “kind of like a nice ride at a tiny little amusement park.”
Michele Smith, a nurse at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, said she felt the quake, too, and knew exactly what it was. She was sitting at the nurses’ station, where she was about 4:30 a.m. today, 20 years ago when another earthquake shook the state.
“It felt like someone was shaking my chair,” Smith, 44, said. “Nobody was around anywhere. I was kind of looking around, and I could see the blinds in the patients’ rooms were shaking.”
Indira Betts woke up with a jolt when her bed started rumbling and her blinds started clapping against the windows.
“I was like, it’s either the exorcist or it’s an earthquake,” said Betts, 27, a Winnebago resident who used to live in Mexico City, where, she said, earthquakes happen at least twice a year. She knew what this morning’s trembling was.
“When I woke up, I was like, was it really an earthquake or was I dreaming?” Betts said.
The State Journal-Register, the Galesburg Register-Mail and the Rockford Register Star contributed to this story.