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Quarry blast blamed for west suburban ‘earthquake’

Updated: December 6, 2013 6:18AM

A small earthquake was reported Monday afternoon near west suburban Indian Head Park, but the U.S. Geologic Survey says it was caused by a quarry blast.

The “quake” measured 3.2 magnitude on the Richter scale and occurred just after 12:30 p.m., according to the USGS website, which later confirmed that it was caused by a quarry blast near Countryside.

A tweet from the National Weather Service said the vibration lasted about five seconds and was felt by a weather observer in Oak Brook.

Unconfirmed reports said it was felt as far away as Logan Square on the Northwest Side.

A spokesman for Vulcan Materials in McCook said no blasting operations took place at the quarry today.

A representative of Hanson Material Co., also in McCook took messages, but couldn’t provide a statement as to mining operations for the day. “A few” complaints have been logged, the representative said.

Hinsdale Deputy Police Chief Mark Wodka said it was felt fairly strong in the Hinsdale community.

Amy Luckett of Burr Ridge was having lunch on her couch when she felt the couch move beneath her.

“My whole couch shook,” she said.

Moments later she spoke to a friend on the other side of town who reported feeling the same thing.

“It lasted just a couple of seconds,” she said.

While reports are that it was related to a quarry blast, Luckett, who grew up near the Thornton quarry, said she knows what a quarry blast feels like. This, she said, was different.

The Burr Ridge Police Department fielded about 10 phone calls from concerned residents in the moments following the shaking. The calls came from all parts of town.

“I actually thought a vehicle hit the building,” said Scott Novak, Countryside deputy police chief. “It was a pretty good shake.”

La Grange resident Karen Deane said she thought a tree had fallen on her house, which shook about 12:36 p.m., because a tree-trimming crew was on her street. A neighbor also felt the walls in her home shake, Deane said.

From her office in the basement of the LaGrange Public Library, Nikki Zimmermann, marketing coordinator, said she felt the building shake.

“It was intense and so brief,” Zimmermann said. “A lot of times, we hear some rumblings upstairs from the kids department, but this was like a giant child. I did think somebody hit the building.”

Zimmermann, who said she experienced earthquakes while living in Japan, said the La Grange area event didn’t feel like a quake because it didn’t last long.

“Teachers reported hearing a bang and a rattle, almost like something hit the building,” he said.

Susan Shewalter, a volunteer at Christ Church of Oak Brook, said she and others at the church heard a blast.

“It shook part of the building, but it didn’t feel like an earthquake to me, Shewalter said. “I experienced an earthquake about 20 years ago when I lived in Willowbrook.”

“We really didn’t know what this was. There’s work being done on the roof at the church, and we thought it might have had something to do with that,” she said.

Regular blasting at the quarries in McCook sometimes cause ground shaking in nearby communities, but not at this level. The last large shake occurred in August 2010 and measured 2.7 on the Richter scale in the La Grange area.

McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski said his chief of police, Mario DePasquali, was at the drive-thru of a Taco Bell when his car began to shake so badly he turned to see if someone was jumping up and down on his bumper.

Tobolski said he plans to send letters to the operators of the quarry as well as the Illinois Department of Natural Resources seeking information about exactly what happened.

“We don’t have any authority there, they don’t tell us when they are going to blast,” said Tobolski.

“You kind of get used to it, but it still kind of freaks you out, and then it’s done . . . one resident described it as ‘a real humdinger.’”

Sun-Times Media; Mitch Dudek

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