An earthquake epicentered in Reno County left school officials in Harvey County rearranging classrooms.
At Burrton High School, classes were moved to the middle school and elementary, and lunch was moved out of the school cafeteria into the city auditorium a few blocks away.
"Our students are safe," the district posted to its Facebook page. "We are having a structural engineer come and assess the damage we sustained in the high school building and central office."
Cracks were discovered in the 100-year-old school building.
The culprit was a 4.2 magnitude earthquake near South Hutchinson just before 8 a.m. Friday that was felt throughout the region.
The quake was centered at Mohawk Road and US-50 highway, just west of South Hutchinson.
Reports to the U.S. Geological Survey on the quake have come in as far away as Salina and Great Bend.
About 400 people in Hutchinson reported feeling the quake by 9 a.m.
Those nearest the quake zone listed it as an intensity VI, with strong shaking and potentially light damage.
Friday’s larger quake was followed over the next 45 minutes by three smaller ones, according to Rick Miller, director of the Kansas Geological Survey in Lawrence.
Though the quake knocked merchandise from shelves in several retail stores and dishes from cabinets in some homes, there were no reports of structural damage in Reno County.
In Hutchinson, some light fixtures fell from the ceiling at Hutchinson Regional Medical Center, as did ceiling tiles at the Dillons on Fifth Avenue. The owner of Egbert Liquor reported some 30 to 50 bottles fell off shelves there, causing $800 to $1,000 in damage.
The smaller quakes included a magnitude 3.3 at 8:10 a.m.; a magnitude 2.8 at 8:30; and 3.1 at 8:43.
All were centered in the same general region in South Hutchinson, from the largest about a mile west of the US-50/K-96 intersection to some 7 miles west.
The series of quakes erupted after what has been a relatively quiet year for earthquakes in Reno County.
“We had one (magnitude) 2.5 that was on Wednesday, the 14th, that might have been felt, but you had to be in the right spot,” Miller said.
Other than that, the only other earthquake recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey in the region this year was a magnitude 2.4 on April 22, USGS records show.
“There’ve been about a dozen micro-level events, from 1.7 to 2.2, in Reno County in the prior six months,” Miller said. “They had slowed dramatically from what was earlier.”
“This (the 4.2) was not unexpected in terms of magnitude,” Miller said. “It was not unreasonable based on the recursion situation, the number of 2’s and 3’s you’ve had.”
Friday’s was probably as large of a quake that Reno County residents could expect, the geologist said.
“It’s hard to believe there will be anything bigger than a 4.2,” Miller said “You don’t have a long enough (fault) structure for that. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for something a little larger, but that’s as close to the top end you’ll see, based on the size of the structure where it occurred.”
The previous quakes that have occurred in the region have revealed the extent of the shallow faults, Miller said.
While Reno County has been quiet this summer, there has been a jump in events in other places around the state, including the third-largest quake scientists are aware of in the state in Rooks County in June.
Miller said that June 22 quake was recorded as a magnitude 4.8, though the USGS website listed it as a magnitude 4.6.
“It didn’t get much attention,” he noted. “The area has had them before, back in the '80s… This area has been active for about 30 years. But this is larger and out of the ordinary for what we’ve seen across Kansas. They’ve just never been this big and focused in this area.”
There have also been a tight cluster of quakes in Trego County and a group east of Salina, as well as smaller earthquakes continuing in Harper and Sumner counties.
“But as far as central Kansas, it has really dropped down,” Miller said.