Small quake felt in Aspen
October 14, 2002
Miss yesterday’s earthquake? Don’t worry ? another one might rattle through town soon.
Aspen suffered only a slight shudder around 4:20 p.m. as a small quake, measured as a 2.8 on the Richter scale, shook buildings and homes. The quake was centered roughly 10 miles east of Aspen, said Bruce Presgrave, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center in Golden.
Its size and proximity led to the small tremors felt in Aspen, he said. No damage was reported.
“The smaller you get, the more often they’re felt as short little jolts,” Presgrave said. “In the case of this earthquake, it was one of those normal, background, low-level earthquakes that can happen pretty much anywhere in the world.”
Earthquakes are fairly uncommon in this part of Colorado, Presgrave said, but not unheard of. Paonia was shaken by a small quake just last week, the result of what Presgrave believed to be the collapse of mine shafts around the town. In August 2001, an earthquake that registered 4.0 on the Richter scale shook Glenwood Springs, with its epicenter located five miles north of town. Aspen has had its fair share of shakes, too ? in April 1999, an earthquake measuring just over 2.0 shook the upper Roaring Fork Valley briefly.
Local weather expert Jim Markalunas didn’t feel the quake as he raked leaves in his front yard, but reported that his wife, who was inside their home, and his daughter, who lives at the base of Smuggler Mountain, were both jolted by it. This isn’t the Markalunas family’s first quake ? Jim said Aspen felt a small series of quakes in the 1950s.
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“That’s not unusual ? they come and go,” Markalunas said. “There’s a certain amount of slippage that occurs along the Castle Creek fault … but if it wasn’t for all the faulting that took place, we wouldn’t have had all the silver deposition in Aspen.”
He said local mountains are still slipping along fault lines that run from Ashcroft through Red Butte.
The impact of Sunday’s quake was felt in varying degrees around town. A couple lounging outside Zele said they didn’t feel the shake. On the other hand, a resident of the Hunter Creek apartments reported that a maintenance worker checked every building in the complex looking for possible blown furnaces after feeling the shake.
A Pitkin County dispatcher said that a few of his co-workers shook while sitting at their desks, but he was like most Aspen residents polled by a reporter and didn’t feel it.
“We got about three or four calls, but I guess a lot of people didn’t feel it,” he said.
Aftershocks from the quake are unlikely, Presgrave said, since Sunday’s shimmy was so small. However, the quake could set off a small chain reaction, triggering equally small earthquakes in neighboring mountainous areas.
“We cannot say there won’t be any more, because one thing I’ve noticed in regard to Colorado earthquakes is [that they occur in] small swarms of earthquakes,” Presgrave said. “It’s very unlikely that it would be substantially bigger, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more.”
[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]