Why many in Wichita did not feel Friday's Hutchinson earthquake

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) People in Hutchinson claimed a 4.2 magnitude earthquake rattled them awake Friday morning. Just 40 miles away in Wichita, most people felt nothing.

Earthquakes of similar magnitude have shaken Wichita in the past.. In May of 2019, a 4.4 magnitude earthquake centered near Medford, Oklahoma rattled the Wichita area. And in April of 2018, people in Wichita felt a 4.6 magnitude earthquake centered 100 miles away near Perry, Oklahoma. The U.S. Geological Survey only received a handful of reports from Wichita of people feeling the South Hutchinson earthquake just 40 miles from the city.

David Wald with the National Earthquake Information Center says earthquakes typically have a directional focus. He says Friday's earthquake near Hutchinson focused its energy toward the northeast. That means people living in close proximity may not necessarily feel the tremors.

"People living at the same distance in different directions may experience it differently. There are a couple reasons for that. One is the earthquake has a radiation in favorable directions just like a speaker would," said Wald.

Wald says the makeup of the Earth's crust can also determine which direction the energy of the earthquake will travel. In this case, that energy was not directed toward Wichita.

"People in Wichita who felt it were probably in very special circumstances, very quiet places, maybe inside where they could hear the building rattling a little bit," said Wald.

Wald says the USGS relies heavily on reports from people feeling earthquakes to understand how they travel.