Magnitude 5.3 Quake Rattles Colorado

Trinidad Still Feeling Aftershocks; Largest Earthquake To Hit State Since 1967

The strongest earthquake to strike Colorado in more than 40 years shook awake hundreds of people, toppled groceries off shelves and caused minor damage to homes in the southern part of the state and in northern New Mexico. No injuries were reported as aftershocks continued Tuesday.

The magnitude 5.3 earthquake was recorded at about 11:46 p.m. MDT Monday about nine miles southwest of Trinidad, Colo., and about 180 miles south of Denver, according to the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden.

It had an estimated depth of 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) and was felt in a relatively large area of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

By 4 a.m. more than 900 people had logged on to the USGS website to report feeling the quake. The reports reached up to Fort Collins.

Aftershocks Still Being Felt

Fewer people reported feeling the three aftershocks.

  • A 3.5 aftershock was reported around 12:56 a.m.
  • A 3.2 aftershock was reported around 1:01 a.m.
  • A 3.8 aftershock was reported around 1:17 a.m.
  • A 3.2 aftershock was reported around 3:37 a.m.
  • A 2.6 aftershock was reported around 6:03 a.m.
  • A 3.9 aftershock was reported at 8:11 a.m.

"Here we go again, there's another one starting. We got to get out of here," said Garry Ringo, owner of Ringo's Super Trading Post in the small town of Segundo, Colo., as bottles on shelves rattled in the background during an interview with The Associated Press.

Ringo estimated he lost thousands of dollars' worth of liquor and soda.

Las Animas County Sheriff Jim Casias said Colorado authorities were assessing damage and so far had reported a porch collapse and a partially collapsed roof. No injuries had been reported, he said.

"I thought maybe a car had hit my house," 70-year-old Trinidad resident Nadine Baca said. "Then I called to my son and he said it was the third (quake) today."

Minor aftershocks continued Tuesday in the relatively sparsely populated area that the USGS says is not known for major quakes or active faults.

Theresa James, manager of Ringo's Super Trading Post, said a small swarm lasting three days hit the area last summer. Segundo is a former coal mining town of about 100 people.

Quake Largest In Colorado Since 1967

The quake was the largest in Colorado since a magnitude-5.3 temblor was recorded in Denver's northern suburbs in 1967, said Paul Earle of the USGS.

This area of Colorado saw a similar swarm of earthquakes in August and September 2001.

“Trinidad does see a series of earthquakes like this every once every once and a while," said U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Jessica Sigala. "They just start up and go away. We don’t really know why.”

The largest magnitude in that swarm was 4.1.

“We have not seen one of this magnitude in this area at all,” said U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Jessica Sigala.

She said some people blamed that swarm on oil drilling in the area but that later studies proved those fears unfounded.

Colorado is no stranger to earthquakes, but most are small and go unnoticed.

Sigala said Monday's earthquake damaged chimneys, cracked walls and knocked items off shelves.

Minor rockslides were reported on Colorado Highway 12 and Interstate 25, but both highways remained open, a Las Animas County Sheriff's Office dispatcher said Tuesday.

Cathy Gutierrez of Raton, N.M., about 20 miles south of Trinidad, told The Associated Press Tuesday that she felt two earthquakes, one around 5:30 p.m. Monday and the big earthquake just before midnight.

"My bed shook with all my pictures. It just went back and forth. I thought someone hit my house. I ran outside. We've had some before (earthquakes), but never this strong," Gutierrez said. "It was a very scary feeling."

Ron Thompson, mine manager with New Elk Mine about 30 miles west of Trinidad, said coal miners 300 to 800 feet underground didn't feel anything but crews above ground and at the company office in Trinidad, where he was at the time, did.

"Not real exciting, but it got your attention," he said of the shallow quake.

According to the USGS, an earthquake in 1882 was the first to cause damage in Denver and is believed to be the largest recorded in the state.

That quake was believed to be centered in the Front Range near what is now Rocky Mountain National Park. Its magnitude was estimated to be about 6.6 on the Richter scale. It was felt as far away as Salina, Kansas, and Salt Lake City.

Did you feel the quakes? Log onto usgs.gov to report what you felt and contact us at newstips@thedenverchannel.com.

To see a map of the tremors, go to earthquake.usgs.gov.

2 Smaller Quakes Hit Monday

Two small earthquakes hit southern Colorado near the New Mexico border prior to the larger temblor, but no damage was reported.

The National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo., said a magnitude 2.9 quake was recorded shortly before 8 a.m. Monday about 12 miles west-southwest of Cokedale, Colo.

A magnitude 4.6 quake was recorded at 5:30 p.m. Monday about 11 miles southwest of Cokedale.

A scale on the Earthquake Information Center website indicates the smaller quake would be classified as micro and the larger one as light.

The center is part of the U.S. Geological Service.

Cokedale is about 190 miles south of Denver and about 185 miles northeast of Albuquerque, N.M.

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