Ask About KY’s Largest Earthquake and You Might Get Two Answers
I may have a weird condition. I don't suffer from it, but it's weird. For whatever reasons, I can no longer feel earthquakes. Yes, I realize that in this part of the country, we don't experience the big ones like they do on the west coast, but Kentucky HAS had them, and they're ones that COULD be felt. Just not by me.
About a decade or so ago, western Kentucky felt the earth move under its feet from a quake that occurred in the pre-dawn hours. By all accounts, it was a pretty good-sized tremor for Kentucky. But I didn't feel it. Who knows?
Only once in my life have I actually felt one. It was a long time ago, and I was about six or seven years of age. I was outside playing in our front yard with a neighborhood friend and we felt it. It didn't last long, but that's what it was. And that was the last time one registered with me.
Kentucky's Largest Earthquake -- You Just Might Get Two Answers
So what IS Kentucky's largest earthquake? Well, the answer to that question is two-fold because, it seems, there are TWO answers. I know that's odd since we're talking about superlative, but who am I to argue? I'm no seismologist.
And, interestingly enough, BOTH of those answers come from the same source...the University of Kentucky.
New Madrid Quake -- 1811 and 1812
Indeed, I searched the "largest quake in KY" and came up with the most famous one in the Commonwealth's history, and one of the largest in U.S. history. It's the New Madrid quakes of 1811 and 1812. There was no Richter scale back then, but the Kentucky Geological Survey figures the biggest of those quakes would have registered an 8. That's devastating. Some of the shocks from these quakes were felt as far away as New Hampshire.
Sharpsburg KY Quake -- 1980
Now, here's where it gets interesting. If you search for "Kentucky's largest earthquake" or some form of that phrase, you will also learn about a 1980 quake that registered 5.2 on the Richter scale. The epicenter was beneath Sharpsburg KY in Bath County. Here's why you get two answers to a question that would seem to only have one:
The strongest historic earthquake recorded inside Kentucky's borders was the magnitude 5.2 Sharpsburg earthquake of July 27, 1980, in Bath County. The quake caused an estimated $3 million in damage in Maysville.
The difference is the phrase "recorded inside Kentucky's borders." As I mentioned above, there was no way to record magnitude in the early 19th century, so there's nothing official about any estimate. Also, the New Madrid quakes were not entirely within Kentucky's borders.
Honestly, experts--if pressed into one answer--would give the New Madrid quakes as THE answer. But they're scientists, and they are all about the data.
Maybe they can explain why I can't feel earthquakes.