Monday, May 5, 2008

Earthquake Update

Another quake rumbled this morning

The U.S. Geological Survey said a 2.7 magnitude quake rumbled this morning. But this time, its epicenter was near Valley Park.

The quake came at 6:25 a.m., centered two miles southeast of Valley Park, according to Jessica Sigala, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center based in Colorado. Its epicenter was somewhere between Valley Park and the Sappington area.

Sigala said this morning's quake was not connected to the 5.2 magnitude quake that struck at 4:37 a.m. on April 18 in the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, some 130 miles east of St. Louis.

When this morning's quake hit, an officer with St. Louis County police in the Affton precinct said he felt the ground shaking for perhaps five seconds and the roof moving, "like someone was moving something around." Police had no reports of damage or injuries.

Timothy M. Kusky, director of the Center for Environmental Sciences at St. Louis University, said today's quake in St. Louis came from "some small faults outside the Wabash and New Madrid zones. They're active every once in awhile." Kusky said he's still studying the readouts from this morning's quake to pinpoint the exact epicenter. But he thinks it was along what's called the Eureka-House Springs fault.

"There are a few faults under Eureka and House Springs that have small quakes every 10 to 20 years," he said. "Generally, they're magnitudes of 2 to 3 or less."

Kusky said the fault had quakes in 1978 and 1998, both of magnitudes between 2 and 3.

Kusky said it's probably just a coincidence that today's came on the heels of the April 18 quake in the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone. That one had its epicenter near Mount Carmel, Ill., and rattled homes from Memphis to Cincinnati. About 30 aftershocks have followed -- the largest being a 4.6 magnitude aftershock at 10:14 a.m. on April 18. The most recent aftershock was a 1.4 magnitude that came at 7:34 p.m. Friday near Bellmont, Ill.

After this morning's quake, Kusky said he was worried about shifting sands near levees.

"One thing we have to be kind of worried about is that earthquakes like this have the potential to shake up loose sand .... and some of the levees saturated with water right now might collapse," Kusky said.

Kusky said it's called liquefaction. It happens in saturated soils. Before the quake, the pressure on soil particles is relatively low. But the violent shaking from an earthquake can cause the water pressure to increase to the point where the soil particles, or sand, moves.

Kusky said it could be a concern around the new $49 million levee in Valley Park.

Kusky explains that liquefaction can be responsible for sinking sidewalks, telephone poles and foundations in an earthquake. He cited a famous example in the 1964 Alaskan quake. "Entire neighborhoods slid toward the sea on liquefied sand layers," Kusky wrote in a paper explaining the phenomenon. In 1964 and 1995 quakes in Japan, Kusky said apartment buildings and shipping piers rolled onto their sides.

Kusky added that today's earthquake is "probably too small for catastrophic failure by liquefaction, but if I was in Valley Park, I would want someone, an engineer, to go out and check the levee for signs of seepage, sand boils .... that could indicate a problem."

A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alan Dooley, said he would be checking with engineers today to see if such an inspection is necessary. Dooley wasn't aware of the earthquake and said a 2.7 magnitude quake would be far too weak to cause any significant damage. He downplayed Kusky's concerns about the levee. I 314-340-8115

No comments:

About Me

My photo
I am interested in CNG vehicles because they are good for the environment and aren't powered by dead Marines. I still have a little hope for the world. Read the musings and enjoy.