We Survived the West Salem Earthquake


I haven’t been in radio for fifteen years, but I still get to be the one with breaking news on occasion. It’s just my coverage is limited to my wife nowadays. I woke up Friday morning to news about the earthquake that rocked Illinois overnight. The Chicago news station normally cycles through their stories every ten minutes or so, but the earthquake cut through that as more people weighed in from around the state throughout the morning.

I was surprised to discover that Illinois actually gets an earthquake every few years. I’ve heard of the New Madrid fault line; there was an 8.something there a couple of hundred years ago that reversed the flow of the Mississippi River for a time. When I was a kid, an earthquake hit the suburbs. I think it was maybe a 4 or 5. I was at a garage sale with my mom when everything moved about one inch to the left. At first I thought it was just me, but then I noticed everyone looking up and around. The knick knacks on the card table in front of me were trembling and tinkling.

Before you get worried, this quake’s epicenter was 300 miles south of us here in Belvidere. I was all set to blame a small hole in the wall on the quake, but I’ve since discovered it was caused by Daniel playing ball in the house. The earthquake struck around 4:30 in the morning, so the only ones awake at the time were the hamsters. It turns out our experience was pretty typical across the area. Even in West Salem where the earthquake occurred, a lot of people slept right through it. Still, the folks who started selling the “I Survived the West Salem Earthquake” T-shirts around lunchtime were reported to be doing a brisk business.

The West Salem Earthquake measured a 5.2 on the Richter scale. I’m sure readers in California and other seismically challenged areas are probably snickering. Let’s just say it’s the experience we feel when we hear about how an inch of snow shut down a city somewhere for a week.

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