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Fri, Jul 14 2006

Lake County, Ohio: Quite a few small quakes this year

We get a lot of razzing about earthquakes in California, but I'm always attuned to news of tremors that affect the central regions of our country. I've become so accustomed to the building materials in the West that I flinch at all the brick structures in the Midwest. So the story of 12 small earthquakes in Lake County, Ohio makes me a bit concerned for them. A history of Ohio quakes from the USGS says that an 1884 quake at Lima was felt by workers building the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. That quake, according to the Mercalli Scale of VI, would probably be between a 4.5 and a 5.0 on today's more commonly used Richter Scale. That tells me that a much larger Ohio quake would have the potential to affect a widespread area with major devastation. (The 1811 and 1812 quakes at New Madrid, Missouri also produced motion in Washington, D.C.)

We've had several generations of people come and go in the Midwest, since those quakes occurred. People now living in the area are accustomed to hearing about our California quakes, which seem to have shaking and resulting damage over a relatively small area. (Of course, every quake is different. The 1989 Loma Prieta quake produced damage near its epicenter, less damage further out, but then continued outward to devastate parts of San Franciso and Oakland.)

We have minor shaking on a daily basis out here, but that's not necessarily the case for the Cleveland, Ohio area. If I lived in Lake County I'd at least take on a "heads up" mentality. Scientists can talk about odds all they wish. But, like winning the lottery or being struck by lightning, when a large quake shakes the world under you or someone you love, the odds go right out the window.

You can check out the known faults in Ohio on this map from the Ohio Seismic Network.

posted at: 09:40 | category: /Science | link to this entry

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