MONDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 1968 VO L. 117 NO. 115 PAGE 1A

Quake-Shy St. Louisans Compose Jangled Nerves

Globe-Democrat Staff Writer

St. Louisans composed their jangled nerves this weekend following an earthquake that shook a wide area and caused minor damage.

The tremor at 11:02 a.m. Saturday startled everyone, making buildings sway and trees shudder. It followed by a few hours the season's first snow flurries, another surprise to many persons, but authorities said the two events were unrelated.

Property damage here was reported light and only one serious injury was attributed to the quake.

Tommie Dobbins, 11, son of Mrs. Mary Ann Dobbins, 2410 South 11th st., was knocked unconscious when he was struck by a brick from the chimney at his home. He was treated at City Hospital for a head injury.

THE QUAKE, centered in southern Illinois about 120 miles southeast of St. Louis, registered 5.5 on the Richter scale of St. Louis University's seismograph. The scale measures the magnitude of earth tremors.

More than two dozen incidents of building damage were reported to the police command post shortly after the quake. These included cracks in walls, fallen chimneys and broken windows.

Police and newspaper switchboards were jammed with calls from persons inquiring, "What happened?" Many suspected an explosion in their neighborhood or a sonic boom.

In several stores, many insecure objects crashed to the floor. However, there were no reports of panic among shoppers. Some thought the building had been rammed by a truck.

Twelve houses in the 3300 and 3400 blocks of Blair avenue reported damage. Other structures damaged were at 2017 South 8th st.; 800 Russell bl; 708 and 710 Russell; 2201 South 7th; 1127 North Broadway; 4461 Olive st.; and 3142 Hickory st.

Deputy Building Commissioner Martin J. Walsh dispatched seven radio-equipped cars to check reported damage.

A 15 by 20 foot section of the southwest wall at Mid-American Metal Co., 4199 Chippewa st., collapsed during the quake, police said.

Patrolman Joseph Novak, who was at the police command post, said the headquarters building "shook real good." He added, "At first, I thought something was wrong with me, but then I saw others in the building shaking, too."

City Hospital administrator M.L. Blanchard said patients there were disturbed until they learned it was a minor quake. A preliminary survey revealed no damage to the hospital.

Blanchard said some of the administrative staff reported into the hospital in the event the disaster plan was activated.

Wayne Kennedy, St. Louis county commissioner of parks and recreation, ordered the Civil War Museum at Jefferson Barracks closed because of earthquake damage. A large crack opened in the museum wall, causing bricks and plaster to fall. It was built in 1857 as a powder magazine.

Authorities in St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson counties reported minor damage.

In Belleville, the quake caused a crack in the south wall of the antiquated St. Clair County jail. There were no injuries and deputies said it did not affect the jail's security.

Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. reported several disruptions in service throughout the area.

Some utility lines were reported down in parts of St. Louis County.

William A. Larman, of 8145 Stanford ave., University City, said the tremor "seemed to rock me around. I was sitting on the concrete driveway fixing my lawnmower. There was sort of a growling or rushing noise, possibly from the brick houses around me."

In many neighborhoods, persons ran outside and inquired of others, "Did you feel that?"

The tremor was felt in at least 19 states, from Mississippi to Michigan and from the Carolinas to Nebraska.

Mrs Homer A. Smith, of 3631 Morganford rd., said she had telephoned her daughter in Indianapolis and they were talking when the quake occurred. Mrs. Smith told her that the house here started shaking, and a short time later the daughter reported a similar jolt on that end of the line.

Protection Costly

Basic Risk Policies Don't Cover Quakes

Earthquake damage is excluded from basic homeowners' and commercial insurance policies, a spokesman for the Insurance Board of St. Louis said Sunday.

Such protection is available, but rarely purchased, he pointed out.

"Few buy it because it's costly and the incidence of earthquakes here has been low - up to now," he asserted. Usually, when it is written into all-risk, commercial coverage, it carries about $25,000 deductible, he said.

He added that only a few companies write earthquake insurance

If a property owner wanted this coverage, it can be added in the form of a rider to his present policy. Riders here cost $1.10 per $1,000 for frame buildings and $1.70 per $1,000 for other than frame.


Quakes Blamed on Shifts in Earth's Crust

Titanic shifts in the earth's crust along cracks or fracture lines have been blamed for earthquakes around the world.

Scientists point out that when the underground rock gives way under strain at some weak point, powerful shock waves are released, possibly resulting in heavy property damage and loss of life.

Saturday's earthquake that caused minor damage here was among nearly 500,000 earth tremors that are detected each year by the 1,200 seismograph stations around the world. About 1,000 of these tremors cause some damage.

Dr. Emil J. Mateker, associate professor of earth sciences at Washington University, said the big earth cracks are called geophysical faults and resemble breaks in a concrete sidewalk where frost or a tree root has pushed one section up higher than the other section.

"There are many faults in the underlying rock, and they run at all sorts of angles to each other," Dr. Mateker pointed out.

Asked about the possibility of predicting earthquakes and issuing advance warnings, Dr. Mateker said: "Maybe someday, but not now. Prediction is very much in its infancy."

The intensity of an earthquake varies from place to place, based on observing its effects at the time it's happening, a spokesman at St. Louis University said this weekend.

St. Louis University experts said Saturday's quake would be rated an intensity of 4, denoting that it caused hanging objects to swing, buildings to sway and windows, dishes and doors to rattle. Intensity 5 causes liquids to spill, doors to swing and unstable objects to fall.

The Richter scale, explained geophysicists at St. Louis University, measures the magnitude of the earthquake. That number does not vary from place to place for an earthquake. Saturday's quake registered 5.5 on that scale.

The Damage point on the Richter scale is considered to be 6, although it might be less in a populated, built-up area, a spokesman noted. The scale is logarithmic, meaning that a tremor with a reading of 6 is 10 times the magnitude of one with a reading of 5.

The Rev. William Stauder, S.J., professor of Geophysics at St. Louis University, asserted, "A really big quake occurs once every two years."

According to the U.S. Geodetic Survey, the most disastrous quake on record occurred Jan. 24, 1556, when 830,000 persons were killed in Shensi, China.

Other quakes with large death tolls include Oct. 11, 1737, Calcutta, India, 300,000 killed; Dec. 16, 1920, Kansu, China, 180,000 killed; Sept. 1, 1923, Tokyo, Japan, 143,000 killed; Aug. 19, 1966, eastern Turkey, 2,394 killed.

The historic San Francisco quake on April 18, 1906, killed 452 persons.

The worst recent quake disaster occurred Aug. 31, 1968, when 11,000 were killed in Iran. Last Jan. 15, a quake in Sicily killed 300, and on Aug. 2 a quake killed 200 in Manila.

Many scientists believe earthquakes are vital to the continued development of our earth. They assert that the repeated uplifting of the earth's crust, with the quakes that go with it, is essential to life. With mountains constantly eroding, if they were not raised again, the world would become a place of stagnant seas and swamps, they believe.

No place is immune to the possibility of an earthquake, but four out of five occur around the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the National Geographic Society points out.

The safest place to be during an earthquake?

Dr. Mateker commented, "If I had my 'druthers, I'd pick the middle of a corn field. If I were in a one-story house with a big yard, I might go outside, but remember that going outside is more dangerous that staying put if there are tall buildings around."

The Weather Bureau urged persons to keep calm and don't run or panic. It pointed out that most injuries in earthquakes occur as people are entering or leaving buildings.

"If you are indoors, sit or stand against an inside wall or an inside doorway. Or else take cover under a desk, table or bench. Stay away from windows and outside doors.

"If you are outdoors, stay away from overhead electric wires, poles or anything else that might shake loose and fall such as cornices of tall buildings. If you are driving, pull off the road and stop. Remain in the car until the disturbance subsides," the Bureau said.

Mississippi River Ran Backwards

U.S. Recorded Its Strongest Earthquake on Dec. 16, 1811

Dec. 16, 1811, marked the most powerful earthquake to hit the United States. The upheaval in the New Madrid, Mo., area caused the Mississippi River to run backwards and then start downstream again in a wave 30 feet high.

The continuing shocks during the next few weeks toppled some of the monumental landmarks along the rocky banks of the Mississippi below St. Louis, created Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake and pushed ground up at various places causing other lakes to disappear.

The New Madrid quake was considered to have 15 times as much energy as the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Due to the sparseness of population, however, the New Madrid death toll was relatively low. Several lives were lost on the river and one person was killed by toppling walls. But some historians noted that several Indian tribes were missing after the earthquake.

Saturday's earthquake was centered on the eastern edge of what geophysicists call the "New Madrid Fault Zone," an area of frequent quakes in the last century.

Centered near Vincennes, Ind., the most recent quake was felt in 19 states. Vincennes is on a long curving line that runs from Memphis, Tenn. to the northernmost tip of Maine, the geophysicists noted.

Numerous quakes have originated on this line, which includes New madrid. Most of the tremors have been minor. St. Louis lies about 100 miles from the line and has felt a number of them.

The St. Louis area, geophysicists agree, can expect a higher frequency of earthquakes than many parts of the nation. They also pointed out these quakes may occur at any time.

The last sharp earth tremor here was on Oct. 20, 1965, measured by St. Louis University as having a magnitude of 4.5 on the Richter scale (compared to 5.5 Saturday). That quake rocked eight Midwest states. Its center was 260 miles west of St. Louis.

Another quake, termed "slight," was felt here on June 27, 1962. Its magnitude was reported at 2.5. Residents here said they felt two small jolts. There was no damage.

Some St. Louisans were awakened by a quake on Feb. 1, 1962. It registered 4.2 and caused no damage.

The upheaval at New Madrid in 1811 was the first of 1,874 shocks recorded in a three-month period. Eyewitnesses in Missouri's Bootheel section said a noise like thunder preceded the first violent tremor and "the air was saturated with a sulphorous vapor and the night made loud with the cries of fowls and animals."

There were no seismographs in those days. When geologists later checked the area, they found that land over 30,000 square miles had been lowered from 6 to 15 feet, while other areas had been raised a similar height.

Read more on the 1811 earthquake:



1968 Earthquake-- Earthquake Center