Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Think Minnesota Doesn't Have Earthquakes? Think Again

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Think Minnesota Doesn't Have Earthquakes? Think Again

Article excerpt

The earthquake that rattled a large portion of central and northern Minnesota on September 3, 1917, while small by historical standards, fascinated many Minnesotans. In the days after the quake, exaggerated accounts and faulty expert analysis reflected the state's inexperience with geological convulsions.

Sometime between 3:20 and 3:30 on the afternoon of September 3, 1917, people across a wide swath of central and northern Minnesota felt the ground move beneath them. Although the shaking initially confused many of the people who experienced it, its source soon became clear: an earthquake had hit Minnesota. Few Minnesotans had ever felt an earthquake before that day. Fewer still had ever felt one in their home state. The quake of September 3 was an instant subject of fascination.

Dispatches went out from as far north as International Falls and as far south as St. Cloud after the earthquake struck. Most described the quake as nothing special. Residents in towns like Brainerd, Motley, and Little Falls reported hearing a "rumbling" or "roaring" noise similar to that of a passing truck or train. Glassware rattled. A paint can fell off a ladder. No one was hurt.

But rumors of heavier damage proved hard to ignore. The day after the quake, the Minneapolis Tribune told its readers that "the worst shock," lasting nearly thirty seconds, happened in Staples. It reported that the shaking knocked goods off store shelves and that shoppers made "miraculous escapes." In Staples, the windows of the Northern Pacific train station shattered, and the depot's concrete platform cracked. Before long, people were referring to the tremor as the "Staples earthquake."

But the initial reports of damage in Staples appeared to stretch the truth. Three days after the quake, the Wadena Pioneer Journal reported that the tremor had not, as earlier claimed, "demoralized" the working people of Staples. …

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