Illinois Earthquakes: 2023’s Tremors and the 10 Most Violent Quakes Since 1900

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Chicago, IL – As Illinois moved through 2023, the ground beneath didn’t stay quiet. The state witnessed a series of tremors, signaling its active seismic history. Over the year, Illinois experienced 11 earthquakes, a noticeable increase from the seven in 2022. This uptick is a part of a larger pattern of seismic activity recorded in the region, with over a thousand quakes documented since the early 1900s.

The seismic activity wasn’t just limited to Illinois. The Illinois-Missouri-Kentucky tri-state area felt a total of 21 earthquakes in 2023, starting in April and culminating with a 3.1 magnitude quake near Waltonville in December. While 2024 has started quietly, the past tremors serve as a geological reminder of the land’s living history beneath Illinois’ feet.

As we reflect on the recent and historical seismic activities, here’s a look at the 10 most powerful earthquakes that have struck Illinois since 1900:

  • June 18, 2002 – Parkers Settlement, Indiana: Felt across the state border, this 4.6 magnitude quake rattled residents.
  • October 21, 1965 – Centerville, Missouri: Another 4.6 magnitude tremor, distinctly felt in Illinois, causing minor disturbances.
  • November 23, 1939 – Fults, Illinois: A 4.7 magnitude quake reportedly caused foundational cracks in homes.
  • April 18, 2008 – Bellmont, Illinois: This 4.7 magnitude event led to disruptions of power lines and brief evacuations due to structural concerns, felt as far away as northern Georgia.
  • July 19, 1909 – Kilbourne, Illinois: A quake of 4.8 magnitude, leading to fallen plaster and cracked chimneys.
  • August 22, 1905 – Tamms, Illinois: Matching the 4.8 magnitude.
  • February 9, 1903 – Harrison, Illinois: A 4.9 magnitude tremor that shifted buildings from their foundations.
  • May 26, 1909 – Lockport, Illinois: With a 5.1 magnitude, this quake caused minor effects such as fallen plaster and cracked chimneys.
  • June 10, 1987 – Claremont, Illinois: A significant 5.2 magnitude quake, which led to over 100 aftershocks in the following days.
  • November 9, 1968 – Norris City, Illinois: The most powerful quake on record at 5.3 magnitude, resulting in widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure.

These historical earthquakes highlight the seismic potential of Illinois and the importance of preparedness and resilience in the face of natural occurrences. As we move forward, these records serve as a geological reminder and a call for vigilance. 

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