5.3 magnitude earthquake hits Colorado

TRINIDAD, Colo. -- The largest earthquake to hit Colorado in more than 40 years has shaken thousands of people in the southern part of the state and northern New Mexico.

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

The earthquake's epicenter was at a depth of four miles.

Four aftershocks of magnitude 3.0 or greater have been recorded Tuesday.

"What we have is an earthquake swarm with a rather large earthquake for Colorado," says United State Geological Survey spokesman Paul Earle. "A magnitude 5.3 is exceptional for Colorado. It's the largest in 44 years."

It was felt over a wide area. People reported shaking and swaying from Trinidad to northern New Mexico to Longmont and even in Kansas.

Earle says it's capable of doing moderate damage, and there are reports of damage to homes and businesses. The damage is mainly pictures falling from walls and items knocked off shelves, although there are reports of collapsed chimneys and cracks in walls.

No injuries have been reported.

Sheriff's deputies in Las Animas County were also looking into reports of rockslides along a highway, according to a dispatcher.

The quake followed two smaller ones that hit the area earlier in the day. USGS spokeswoman Amy Vaughn says the smaller quakes may have triggered the larger one.

The quake is the largest in Colorado since a magnitude 6.3 was recorded in 1967 centered at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in northeast metro Denver.

"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."

Another USGS geophysicist, Shengzao Chen, said the information center had received calls from more than 70 people in Trinidad and several dozen people in New Mexico who felt the shaking.

More than 30 people in Colorado Springs, about 130 miles north of Trinidad, also reported feeling the quake, he said.

A magnitude 4.6 quake was felt in the same area at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, and a magnitude 2.9 quake was recorded just before 8 a.m.

The last time the area received such a series of earthquakes was in August and September 2001, when about a dozen smaller-sized quakes were recorded, Chen said.

The area seems to be active again," he said.

The largest earthquake to hit Colorado since record keeping started was November 8, 1882. It had a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter Scale and scientists believe the location was west of Denver.