Small earthquake reported this morning in Oxford
by Ben Cunningham
Oct 15, 2012 | 10920 views |  0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This image from the U.S. Geological Survey website shows the epicenter of an earthquake this morning in Oxford.
This image from the U.S. Geological Survey website shows the epicenter of an earthquake this morning in Oxford.
The earth moved Monday morning near Oxford, but apparently not enough for most folks to notice.

The U.S. Geological Survey, however, was paying attention, and logged a tiny tremor at 8:16 a.m., about a tenth of a mile beneath the parking lot of Lee Brass, near the intersection of U.S. 78 and Leon Smith Parkway.

Ken Dickson, Lee Brass’ president, said he was at the plant, where about 200 people work, but felt nothing at the time. Staff who were in the parking lot when the tremor occurred told him later they’d noticed nothing unusual. Production workers who’d been at the plant since 4 a.m. also reported no signs of shaking.

“No one here noticed at all, as best I can ascertain,” Dickson said.

That didn’t surprise Sandy Ebersole, a geologist in the mapping and hazards office of the Geological Survey of Alabama, in Tuscaloosa.

“Earthquakes that small in magnitude do tend to go unnoticed,” she said Monday afternoon by phone from her office. “Some people do feel them, but they kind of have to be in the right place at the right time.”

The ideal conditions for someone to feel such a quake include sitting very still on the second floor or higher of a multi-story building, she said.

“If you’re driving or walking, you’re not even going to notice,” Ebersole said.

Damage? Forget about it. Such quakes tend not to cause noticeable damage, she said.

“Or even un-noticeable damage,” Ebersole said, a slight laugh shaking her voice.

Indeed, there were no reports of damage Monday afternoon, according to Jonathan Gaddy, director of the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency.

If things had gotten shakier, though, the county stood a reasonable chance of being ready. The EMA and local public safety agencies in September took part in a nationwide drill to practice their response in the event of a more serious earthquake, Gaddy said.

A few earthquakes the size of Monday’s tend to rattle Alabama each year, Ebersole said, but most attract little notice.

While Monday’s quake was not very powerful, it is among the strongest recorded in Calhoun County.

Information at the website of the Geological Survey of Alabama records five earlier earthquakes here since 1939. (Ebersole said others likely have happened, but at times when monitoring equipment was not in place to record them.) Monday’s magnitude-2.3 tremor matched the strongest of those five, recorded along White’s Gap Road south of Jacksonville, on Nov. 15, 2008.

The latest quake was not strong enough, though, to disrupt the Monday morning routine at Fairfield Inn & Suites in Oxford, less than half a mile from the quake’s epicenter.

Jay Smith was working the hotel’s front desk Monday, helping the morning rush of guests checking out. He hadn’t heard of the quake until a reporter called to ask. Guests didn’t report anything either, he said.

“I was honestly so busy, I didn’t feel anything,” Smith said.

Metro Editor Ben Cunningham: 256-235-3541. On Twitter @Cunningham_Star.
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Small earthquake reported this morning in Oxford by Ben Cunningham

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