Scientists Not Surprised at Midwest Quake

The soil there is stronger, more continuous, which means that seismic waves -- uninterrupted by fractures -- can travel much farther and why people in Georgia felt the morning's quakes, according to Seeber. The geology, therefore, also makes the Midwest and the East more vulnerable.

"It's well-known the same size earthquake can do a lot more damage in the eastern U.S., where there's not geologic activity," Seeber said. "In the eastern U.S., the rocks are stronger. The waves go through and go for a longer distance."

Although the quake was felt far, it didn't cause a lot of damage. The reason, according to Seeber, is that it occurred deep in the earth and not close to the crust. The shallower the quake, according to Seeber, the more havoc it wreaks.

In Champaign-Urbana, Ill., Amar Elnashai, the director of the Mid-America Earthquake Center, was literally shaken out of bed this morning.

"The whole city is rather tense," Elnashai said after briefing the Federal Emergency Management Agency on the quake.

Like other experts, Elnashai was not surprised by the quake. The center has spent the last three years researching what kind of structural damage an earthquake could do in a region that, unlike California, doesn't have earthquake codes for its buildings.

"Our structures have not been designed for earthquakes ever in the East," he said.

Elnashai says that existing buildings in the Midwestern and Eastern United States should be reinforced. As for the public, he encourages citizens to find out whether they live in an earthquake zone and be prepared.

Even for those currently living in an earthquake zone, scientists say there's no way to predict when or where an earthquake will strike.

"Prediction has a very specific meaning, which is telling you of an earthquake of a particular size, time and place. That's not possible," said Seeber. "What we do is give you the probability of an earthquake in an area based on the past. Then we design structures accordingly for cost."

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