David Lias

Cindy and I had only been married about six months when we tuned in “Superman,” the movie, on our small television set in the small living room of the small rental house that had become our home in Tripp on Nov. 15, 1982.

I’ll share why I know the date the movie aired in a moment.

We were both enthralled with the film and were especially focused on its conclusion, in which a lot happens. Here, my memory is a bit fuzzy, but I think Luthor, the villain, somehow was able to launch two missiles in two different directions and Superman was only able to get to one of them in time to throw it into outer space.

The second missile explodes inside the San Andreas Fault, which causes massive earthquakes to erupt across California, damaging the Golden Gate Bridge and breaching the Hoover Dam. I think Superman was somehow able to seal the fault line.

Lois Lane, however, is driving in the vicinity and her car falls into a crevice that formed from one of the aftershocks and she suffocates before Superman can reach her.

Angered over failing to save her, Superman accelerates around Earth, traveling several minutes backward in time to prevent Lois's death while also undoing the damage caused by the missile and earthquake.

The West Coast is saved, as is Lois, thanks to Superman’s time trick and I think the movie ends with him delivering Luthor to prison.

I was reminded of all of this by something that happened earlier this week. An earthquake of 3.1 magnitude on the Richter scale briefly shook a small area of South Dakota not all that far from here. The tremors occurred at 8:55 a.m. Monday about four miles northeast of Tyndall. The epicenter was believed to be three miles deep.

An earthquake of 3.1 on the Richter scale really isn’t much, especially compared to those experienced in California, Alaska, and such countries as Japan, Mexico and India.

Bon Homme County Emergency Manager Eric Elsberry fielded a number of questions from area residents.

“There were no reported damages, but people have been calling and asking about it throughout the day,” he said. “One person thought there was some kind of propane explosion. I was here at the courthouse, and it sounded like someone backed into the building. It shook a little in my office, which is located in the old vault for the register of deeds, but not much.”

Custodian Teresa Meredith, while on a different floor of the Bon Homme County Courthouse, noticed stronger movement that shook a refrigerator.

Monday’s tremors were felt in neighboring Hutchinson County and Yankton County of southeast South Dakota, Elsberry said. The USGS received at least one report from northeast Nebraska with tremors felt near Niobrara in Knox County.

It’s easy to understand why South Dakotans were a bit confused about what they had just experienced for such a short time Monday.

You see, back in 1982, probably at about the moment when Superman was making the world spin backwards, an earthquake measuring 4.3 magnitude on the Richter scale shook communities along the northeast Nebraska and southeast South Dakota border.

It was one of those moments that caused Cindy and I to look at each other with a “did something just happen” sort of gaze. I remember hearing something rattle for a second in the kitchen. That was it. We both shrugged, content on believing that we had just gotten so involved in the movie that the earthquake being depicted on the screen triggered our imaginations.

The next day, TV and radio news shows were leading with reports of the small earthquake. Cindy and I awoke Monday to learn that, yes, that small shake that we both felt was indeed real.

A National Weather Service spokesman in Omaha told United Press International that the quake’s epicenter was southwest of Scotland.

No injuries were reported but the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said the 20-second vibration was “strong enough to shake an entire house.”

“A radio shook in the Police Department in Vermillion,” the Sioux Falls weather bureau said in the UPI report.

The news story added that the earthquake occurred about 9 p.m. Nov. 15, 1982, and was felt by residents in Vermillion, Yankton, Avon, Tyndall and Springfield in South Dakota and in Cedar and Knox counties in Nebraska.

Tim Cowman, state geologist and director of the South Dakota Geological Survey in Vermillion, remembers that 1982 quake, too.

“The 1982 earthquake occurred about one mile northeast of Tyndall. It was 4.3 magnitude, or 10 times more powerful than (Monday’s) 3.1,” he said in a story published earlier this week by the Yankton P&D. “I was present for the 1982 earthquake and experienced it about 40 miles east of Tyndall. I lived between Yankton and Vermillion, and I remember a rumble going through the house I was in — and I was quite a ways from the quake itself.”

What’s rather amazing is that the 1982 earthquake and the one that shook Bon Homme County and surrounding areas earlier this week had epicenters in nearly the same locations – a spot about six miles northeast of Tyndall.

Why do these tiny quakes happen in South Dakota?

Seth Tupper of South Dakota Public Broadcasting talked with Cowman last month after a 3.2 magnitude quake shook the Bowdle area.

“The thing that probably more likely caused this earthquake,” he said, referring to the Bowdle event, “is something that we call ‘glacial rebound’ or ‘isostatic rebound.’”

In other words …

“During the last Ice Age,” Cowman told Tupper, “the ice sheets that covered this part of North America were very thick and put a lot of weight on the Earth’s crust.”

That immense weight caused compression.

“And we think the crust is slowly rebounding back to its near-original form,” Cowman said, “and occasionally there might be a little bit of a jump in that rebound that causes these small earthquakes.”

It's been about 12,000 years since the last ice sheets receded, and Earth’s crust may have been rebounding ever since. Cowman thinks that may have caused the Bowdle quake and many other South Dakota earthquakes.

Like the ones in 1982 and earlier this week.

Since South Dakota isn’t on a fault line and our tremors are due mainly to glacial rebound, we’ll likely never experience anything more than a somewhat gentle shake.

I doubt that the Man of Steel will feel his reverse time trick is necessary following a 20 second tremor.


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