A major earthquake shook southern Indiana Tuesday afternoon with an epicenter 10 miles northwest of Evansville.
At 12:37 (CDT), the 5.0 earthquake was felt in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Initial reports did not indicate serious damage, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
The Old National Bank in Evansville evacuated employees from its downtown office tower but workers were allowed back in after about an hour.
Officials in Evansville said they were checking gas lines to ensure there were no leaks.
The quake briefly interrupted telephone service in Carmi and Grayville, IL.
The USGS said the magnitude and location of the quake could be revised. The Earthquake Information Center reported the quake was much larger than average for this region.
The most damaging Indiana earthquake originating within the state occurred Sept. 27, 1909 near the Illinois border between Vincennes and Terre Haute. Some chimneys fell, several building walls were cracked, light connections were severed, and pictures were shaken off walls.
Indiana also suffered from damage caused by earthquakes originating in neighboring states. The worst occurred on Nov. 9, 1968 and was centered near Dale in southern Illinois. A magnitude 5.3, it was felt more than 580,000 square miles.
The southwestern part of Indiana lies on the New Madrid fault line. In the winter of 1811-12, the central Mississippi Valley was struck by three of the most powerful earthquakes in U.S. history. Even today, this region has more earthquakes than any other part of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.
In 1811, the central Mississippi Valley region was sparsely populated. Today it is home to millions of people. Government agencies, universities, and private organizations are working to increase awareness of the earthquake threat and to reduce loss of life and property in future shocks.
In the past 20 years, scientists have learned that strong earthquakes in the central Mississippi Valley are not freak events but have occurred repeatedly in the geologic past.
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