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County rattled by 5.2 earthquake

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By Vince Luecke

Dispatchers flooded with calls, damage very minor

PERRY COUNTY - A 5.2 magnitude earthquake centered in southern Illinois jolted Perry Countians from their predawn sleep Friday, rattling windows and generating dozens of 911 calls but causing no significant damage. An aftershock measuring 4.6 struck after 10 a.m.

According to the National Geological Survey, the 4:37 a.m. quake was centered five miles northeast of Bellmont, Ill., and about 38 miles from Evansville. However, the quake was felt as far as Kansas and Georgia.

As of midmorning Friday, only very minor damage from the earthquake had been reported locally, Emergency Management Agency Director Steve Hauser said. A Tell City man asked Hauser to look at exterior cracks on a building in the 800 block of Tell Street the building's caretaker said weren't there before. Hauser logged the report and the caretaker said a contractor had been called.

Hauser said he was one of thousands of county residents awakened by the several seconds of rumbling that caused enough concern to send many people to their telephones to call family members and police.

Dispatchers at the Tell City Police Department received approximately 100 calls in the minutes after the quake. Many callers wanted to know if they had really experienced an earthquake or if there had been an explosion.

Calls were still trickling in 30 minutes after the quake. Some worried residents hearing the rumbling thought a tornado was approaching and jolted from their beds and ran to reach children.

While most people were asleep, some residents were fully awake when the rumbling began. Tell City police officers were investigating a possible break-in at a local tavern at the time.

"I thought someone had hit the building," Patrolman Derrick Lawalin said 30 minutes later when describing the sound of the quake.

The Indiana Department of Transportation Vincennes District Earthquake Response Team was dispatched at 6 a.m. and began inspecting bridges and roadways. Friday's quake was the largest in recent history for this area. According to News files, a 5.0 magnitude tremor hit in June 2002. Several quakes with magnitudes between 3.0 and 4.0 occurred in 1990.

For more information on Friday's earthquake, visit http://earthquake.usgs.gov.