Earthquake History

The earliest, and possibly the strongest, shock reported within Kansas' borders occurred April 24, 1867. Several persons were injured, though not seriously. Plaster cracked, objects were thrown from shelves, and doors and windows were shaken at Lawrence. The earthquake was also felt strongly at Manhattan, where stones loosened on buildings and walls cracked. A heavy wave, about two feet high, was observed on the Kansas River at Manhattan. The tremor was felt over an area of 300,000 square miles in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and possibly Ohio.

A moderate earthquake near Valley Falls, northeast of Topeka, on November 8, 1875, was felt over about 8,000 square miles in eastern Kansas and western Missouri. Dishes rattled; windows shook; some buildings rocked or quivered (intensity V).

Eastern Kansas felt the effects of a strong earthquake centered near Charleston, Missouri, in 1895. The October 31 shock affected about one million square miles over 23 States. Topeka reported the strongest effects in Kansas - houses shook and people were awakened. Dishes and windows rattled in other towns.

The area around Dodge City and Meade, in western Kansas, was shaken with an intensity V earthquake on October 27, 1904. Some reports indicated three shocks were felt at Dodge City.

On January 7, 1906, a strong shock affected an area of about 10,000 square miles in Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. Chimneys were thrown down and some cracks in walls were observed at Manhattan (intensity VII). Houses and buildings vibrated at Topeka, where a loud roaring sound was also heard. Some towns reported feeling two or three shocks. A series of small aftershocks of the January 7 earthquake was felt in Manhattan, the last being reported on January 23.

An earthquake on March 18, 1927, near White Cloud, in the extreme northeastern portion of the State, rocked houses such that people rushed out of them. The felt area was limited to about 300 square miles.

Four shocks - two on September 23, 1929, one each on October 21 and December 7, 1929 - were reported from the same area of northeastern Kansas. Houses shook over a broad area around Manhattan in September. The total affected area covered approximately 15,000 square miles. The October tremor was felt over an area of 8,000 square miles; that in December covered only 1,000 square miles. The maximum reported intensity of all these earthquakes was V.

A moderate earthquake was felt on February 20, 1933, over about 6,000 square miles in Norton and Decatur counties, Kansas, and Furnas and Harlan counties, Nebraska. Buildings and houses swayed; dishes and windows rattled; people ran out of their houses.

A damaging earthquake centered near El Reno, Oklahoma on April 9, 1952, affected a total area of 140,000 square miles, including all of the eastern half of Kansas. The magnitude 5.5 shock was felt in Kansas most strongly (intensity V) at Medicine Lodge; intensity V effects were also observed at Kansas City.

On January 6, 1956, minor damage occurred at Coats, Coldwater, Medicine Lodge, and Wilmore, Kansas, and Alva, Oklahoma. The damage was limited to loosened bricks, cracked plaster and chimneys, and objects knocked from walls and shelves. Many observers reported being shaken from their beds by the shock a few minutes before 6 a.m. The total felt area covered approximately 16,000 square miles.

Another felt earthquake with an epicenter in Kansas occurred April 13, 1961. The area affected was about the same as that from the 1933 tremor, principally Norton County, Kansas, and Furnas County, Nebraska. Intensity V was the maximum reported from this region.

The November 9, 1968, earthquake centered in southern Illinois was felt moderately throughout the eastern portion of Kansas. All or parts of 23 states were affected by this magnitude 5.3 shock.

Abridged from Earthquake Information Bulletin, Volume 4, Number 6, November - December 1972.

For a list of earthquakes that have occurred since this article was written, use the Earthquake Search.