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Earthquake was an early wake-up call

A seismometer in the basement of Davis Hall at Northern Illinois University recorded Wednesday morning's earthquake.
A seismometer in the basement of Davis Hall at Northern Illinois University recorded Wednesday morning's earthquake.

SYCAMORE – Floyd Kocher of Sycamore was just getting out of bed about 4 a.m. Wednesday when his house began to shake – reminding him of the time he was outside and a jet broke the sound barrier overhead.

“You could feel it the same way,” Kocher said. “I knew what it was. You figure it’s an earthquake when the whole house shakes.”

Wednesday’s 3.8-magnitude quake happened at 3:59:34 a.m. and was centered about 1 mile south-southeast of Pingree Grove, or west of Switzer Road between Plank Road and Route 20 in rural Kane County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

It was about 3.1 miles underground.

The USGS initially had placed the epicenter 5 miles east of Sycamore and 4 miles west of Virgil, and gave it a 4.3 magnitude. John Bellini, a geophysicist with the USGS’s National Earthquake Information Center, said the numbers and location were revised as more data became available.

While there are always aftershocks after an earthquake, Paul Stoddard, an associate professor in department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences at Northern Illinois University, said there shouldn’t be any in the region that are large enough for anyone to feel.

There were no reports of damage called in to the police departments in DeKalb or Sycamore, nor to the dispatch centers for DeKalb or Kane counties, officials at those department said. Stoddard said a quake this small would result in little to no damage.

“I would say hundreds of calls came in (to the county dispatch center) shortly after 4 a.m,” DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott said, most to report the shaking and of hearing a “boom” sound.

When the noise of the earthquake woke Jean Winter of Sycamore, she initially thought it was snow falling off the roof of her three-story townhouse.

“Then it just kept going and I thought, ‘Nope, this is another earthquake,’” she said. “I lived in Chicago in the 1980s when we had one, and that one I blamed on the dogs shaking the bed.”

Rick Polad, an earth science instructor at Aurora University, said the sound people heard likely could have been caused by vibrations moving up through the earth and causing sound waves in the air, which human ears would interpret as a boom or rumble.

And Rod Allen, a geologist from St. Charles who teaches science at Da Vinci Academy in Elgin, said it also is likely that the sound was caused by the vibration of homes and other objects.

Earthquakes are caused by a shifting of rocks along a fault line, Stoddard said. There is no known fault line where the quake occurred, Stoddard said, but there “is a fault there because there was an earthquake. Anywhere on the planet can see an earthquake.”

More than local residents felt the earth move Wednesday: The USGS received reports that the quake was felt by residents in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Jesse and Camille Asanoski felt it at their home in Rockford, they said. Jesse Asanoski initially thought it was a snowplow going by, but didn’t see anything when he looked out the window. When the couple arrived at their restaurant, Tommy O’s in Sycamore, Camille Asanoski noticed some of the knick-knacks on the walls had shifted.

“Who could have thought you would have an earthquake in Sycamore?” Jesse Asanoski said as he flipped a customer’s omelet.

The earthquake’s timing was perfect for Kelli Hamilton, a sixth-grade science teacher at Huntley Middle School in DeKalb. Her classes have been studying earthquakes for about a week, she said, and Wednesday’s quake gave her a real-life situation to dissect.

“This morning some of the kids were saying, you planned this,” she said, noting earthquakes are annually part of her lesson plan. “... It just totally serendipitously happened the same time we were talking about it.”

Other educators made room in their lesson plans. At North Grove Elementary School in Sycamore, the earthquake struck home for students who just completed a fundraising drive that raised $1,000 for victims of the January earthquake in Haiti, Principal Ryan Janisch said.

North Elementary teacher Carol Meeks said her fourth-grade students came in bursting with excitement, and they spent time talking about the earthquake. She was careful, however, not to show students images of too much devastation from earthquakes.

“You don’t want them to spend the rest of the day feeling worried or concerned,” Meeks said. “We talked about it, we looked at it, then the kids were done. They were calm, they were able to process it and we could move on with our day.”

Others, though, didn’t feel a thing. The earthquake was news to Phil Grismer, who slept through it in his Sycamore home.

“One of my dogs was up all night growling, but that was the indication something was wrong,” he said. “It didn’t wake me up. I guess that’s the best way to have an earthquake.”

• Shaw Suburban Media reporters Carrie Frillman, Dana Herra and Jonathan Bilyk contributed to this report.

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