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Friday, August 1, 2014

Earthquake a novel experience for most Wichitans

BY BECCY TANNER
The Wichita Eagle

It struck just as most Kansans were getting ready for bed Saturday night.

Wichitan Janet Tisdale was sitting at her computer when she started feeling things were off balance.

"I thought, 'Am I crazy?' I thought something was happening with my head. I stood up and it was like the floor was buckling. I thought maybe it was my blood pressure. And then, I thought, 'Jesus, Janet, you are crazy.' "

So Tisdale went to bed and woke Sunday morning to find out that what she thought was health-related was indeed a 5.6 magnitude earthquake that began in central Oklahoma — 44 miles northeast of Oklahoma City — and shook and rattled its way into Kansas.

It was reportedly felt as far away as Tennessee.

It happened at about 10:45 Saturday night and lasted less than a minute.

It caused the orangutans at the Sedgwick County Zoo to howl, hit the walls and rattle their cages.

"They were vocalizing for a good half-hour," said Danielle Decker, senior keeper of the Downing Gorilla Forest at the Sedgwick County Zoo. "They had a strong reaction to it."

Across Kansas, it caused dogs to bark, long-time Kansans to question their sanity, 911 switchboards to light up and Facebook to go into a frenzy.

Kansans felt it as far north as Salina and as far west as Hays.

Wichitan Wendy Johnson was in Lawrence Saturday night visiting her college-age son who lives in a third-floor apartment half a mile from the University of Kansas, The residents on the floor below were having a party.

Johnson noticed the poster on her son's fireplace moving.

"I thought, 'Wow, that's a really loud party they are having.' Johnson said. "And then I thought, we are having an earthquake."

Immediately, she received a text message from a friend in Wichita saying they'd just felt an earthquake.

"You know, I might have expected a whole lot of things in Kansas but I never thought an earthquake."

Sure Kansas is known for its extremes — tornadoes, windstorms and blizzards, droughts and floods.

Now, add earthquakes to the list.

It caused Vicki Benton in the Indian Hills neighborhood of Wichita to go for her gun.

"I was getting ready to go to bed and I have these hanging pots and pans in the kitchen and they started banging and it sounded as if someone was rattling my backdoor for all it is worth. I thought somebody was coming in and they didn't even care if they were loud," Benton said. "I stood up to get the gun and I got real dizzy. Things settled down and I kept the gun with me and hopped on Facebook and everybody was saying, there had been an earthquake."

Louise Newman, who lives in West Wichita, thought she was having a Linda Blair — as in "The Exorcist" — moment.

She had just laid down in bed and was beginning to watch "The Bridesmaids" when her bed started shaking — like someone had just plugged a quarter in to one of those old-fashioned bed massagers.

"I have a wrought-iron bed and it started banging against the wall. I sat straight up and turned the light on. I ran outside to see if something had blown up."

Newman said it sounded like a jet engine was rumbling through her neighborhood.

Others described it like a large truck or a freight train rumbling by or like a wave was going through the house.

Saturday's earlier tremor, which hit at 2:12 a.m., woke people and pets as it shook an area from Texas to Missouri. Its epicenter was 6 miles north of Prague in Lincoln County, in the rolling hills about 50 miles east of Oklahoma City.

A 3.4 magnitude aftershock was reported at 2:27 a.m. from the same location, as well as a 2.7 magnitude aftershock at 2:44 a.m.

Wichitan Jay Price said he first heard a noise in his living room — thinking one of his cats had done something.

But both were with him — one cowering under the bed.

Contributing: Associated Press Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com.

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