By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - A moderate earthquake rattled church bells and nerves Tuesday in portions of the Midwest and South, but authorities had no immediate reports of serious damage.
The quake, which struck at 12:37 p.m. CDT, registered a magnitude of 5.0, said John Bellini with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo.
The epicenter was 10 miles northwest of Evansville, Ind., near the small town of Darmstadt.
"Initially, it was this thunderous noise, and then the actual vibration," said Vicki Stuffle, an employee of Old National Bank in Darmstadt. "We actually saw the building moving."
The quake was hard enough to sound the bells inside a church steeple, she said.
The quake shook buildings in downtown Evansville and was felt in Indiana as far north as South Bend, about 250 miles away. It also was felt in Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.
The only damage immediately reported was cracked chimneys and broken glass in the Evansville area, said Alden Taylor, spokesman for the Indiana state emergency management agency.
Officials were inundated with calls from people asking about the tremor.
In Louisville, Ky., Jerrod Pratt, who works the night shift at a Ford Co. assembly plant, said the quake shook him from his sleep but didn't appear to damage his house.
"I was laying in my bed and my bed was shaking, my house was shaking," Pratt said. "I looked out my window and my neighbors were all standing outside looking around."
"It was weird," he said. "I'd never experienced anything like that."
Bill Smith, a U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist, said the Wabash Valley region periodically is struck by small earthquakes, typically ones that are not strong enough to be felt.
"This is much larger than average for the region, but not unprecedented," Smith said.
The strongest earthquake in the region in the last 100 years happened on Nov. 9, 1968. Centered in south-central Illinois, it had a magnitude of 5.4 and was felt in 23 states.
Maj. Tom Wallis of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department felt the quake in his office and said authorities were checking bridges and other structures for damage.
"We were shaking, rattling and rolling," Wallis said. "I thought it was Jerry Lee Lewis doing the big one."