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Virginia Earthquake Shakes Louisville, Eastern Kentucky

by Alan Lytle, Kentucky Public Radio

Tremors from a 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered near Richmond, Va., shook parts of eastern Kentucky, with at least two people reporting feeling some shaking as far away as Louisville.  Mike Lynch, with the Kentucky Geologic Survey at the University of Kentucky, says he’s not all that surprised that tremors were felt in the Derby City.

“The geology between that epicenter, and the furthest distance that it is felt, is varied.” he said. ” So there are going to be places between the epicenter and the furthest distance of felt reports, where it’s very well felt.  Other places right in between there may not feel it at all.”

Lynch says the earthquake was only about one kilometer in depth, so it didn’t affect some areas of the state. It was felt in eastern Kentucky, but not Lexington.

“So why was it felt in Louisville? “ he said. “One of the answers to that question has to do with the fact that Louisville and so many larger cities are on the silty, wet, soils that characterize riverbanks.  Louisville is on the Ohio riverbanks.”

KGS officials say today’s quake was far stronger than the one that hit the same geographic area in 2003.  That one measured 4.5 on the Richter scale.

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Virginia Earthquake Felt in Louisville

A 5.9 magnitude earthquake that struck in central Virginia shook buildings in Washington D.C., New York City, Cleavland and Louisville.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was 3.7 miles deep. Early reports say the quake shook several Louisville buildings and was most felt in tall buildings.

Mayor Greg Fischer’s staff felt Metro Hall shake, but a mayoral spokeswoman says MetroSafe reports “nothing out of ordinary” from the tremor.

Follow WFPL News on Twitter for the latest updates.

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Kentuckians Prepare for Japanese Teaching Assignments

The March earthquake and tsunami in Japan devastated parts of that country and shook the economy around the world. It did not, however, shake the resolve of several Kentuckians who are headed to Japan this weekend to start new jobs.

The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program hires English-speaking college graduates to teach in Japanese public schools. Adrienne Ledbetter is from Bowling Green and is headed to a city near Mt. Fuji that recently faced a food crisis after authorities found radiation-tainted beef.

Ledbetter says she’ll make whatever accommodations are necessary to stay safe, but she’s excited about the move, particularly because of the strong ties between Japan and Kentucky.

“Without Japan and they’re moving manufacturing over here there would be far fewer jobs and far fewer investments,” she says. “It makes me feel really grateful, because sometimes I feel like Kentucky is not thought of so kindly by other parts of the United States.”

Ledbetter took several Japanese language classes at Western Kentucky University that she says should help prepare her for what she sees as an important role.

“It’s a JET’s job to improve Japanese and American relations between citizens and between individuals, not just politicians,” she says. “You know, a child that I have in my classroom may never have seen a foreigner before. And if I can be just one good example of a gai-jin, a foreigner, I feel like I’ve done my job.”

She’s one of eight Kentuckians leaving for Japan this weekend and about eight hundred Americans joining the JET Program this summer.

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Production Increases at Georgetown Toyota Plant

This year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused a parts shortage that led to diminished production at Toyota Motor Company’s 13 American plants. It also damaged the automaker’s sales. And now, Toyota is now preparing to increase production and competition.

The Toyota plant in Georgetown, Kentucky was more active during the parts shortage than most other domestic factories. And now, production will go back to 100 percent.

But that doesn’t mean it’ll be as busy as it was before the parts shortage. Overtime won’t be necessary and the line workers will turn out cars as fast as customers order them, which is slower than it was at the start of the year.

“It’s going to take a little more time, ” says company spokesperson Rick Hesterberg. “With a lot of the factors we’re looking at, not just with supplies but consumer confidence and a lot of other economic factors that go into adjusting your volume levels.”

Typically, the plant turns out about half a million vehicles every year.

“What number we end up doing at the end of the year, it’s hard for me to predict right now,” says Hesterberg. “We’re not going to build 500,000, I can tell you that. It’s fluctuated over the years from 370,000 up to 525,000.”

Many other automakers, particularly those with large operations in Japan, also saw sales slip after the earthquake.

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MetroSafe Participates in FEMA Earthquake Drill

The Federal Emergency Management Agency conducted an earthquake drill in western Kentucky today.

FEMA is testing how well various federal, state, city and private agencies can respond to a devastating quake on the New Madrid Fault, which is underneath parts of Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.

Louisville MetroSafe spokesperson Lee Cravins says his agency was called this morning asked to prepare to send crews to the simulated disaster area.

“Since we’ve got so many special teams as well as resources, we’ve been requested to assist in western Kentucky. From the emergency operations center we manage receiving the request and then sending the units that are requested,” he says.

Cravins says everything went smoothly. There have been no major problems with radios or communications and first responders were mobilized quickly. The drill continues into tomorrow. Cravins says MetroSafe could be asked to respond to any number of simulated catastrophes, and crews have been thinking more about a potential quake since the disaster in Japan.

“It’s something that always sits on our mind. As close as we are to the New Madrid fault line, as well as others, and anything could happen at any time. We try to prepare for it as much as possible,” he says.

First responders in Lexington also participated in the drill.

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U of L Group to Participate in FEMA Earthquake Drill

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is conducting an exercise this week in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which covers much of Kentucky.

FEMA will conduct various simulations and drills to test the federal, state and local response to a devastating earthquake on the New Madrid Fault. Among the participants will be about 30 of the University of Louisville’s standardized patients, who act out various maladies during disaster drills. Program director Carrie Bohnert says the patients have been trained to simulate common earthquake-related injuries.

“Some very typical…no physical injury but patients who are experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder to patients who were at Western Baptist Hospital post-surgery and received crush injuries all the way to patients who are having symptoms of dehydration,” she says.

The patients will participate in drills in Paducah on Wednesday. Bohnert says the simulation is meant to help state and federal responders coordinate their medical treatment procedures. FEMA exercises will be conducted all this week in various parts of Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.

The Louisville Metro Urban Search and Rescue Team will work with federal officials on a structure collapse drill tomorrow afternoon.

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Toyota Officials Confident Automaker Will Recover From Drops in Production, Profit

Despite a drop in production and profits after the earthquake in Japan, Toyota Motor Company officials are optimistic about the automaker’s future.

Toyota sales spokesperson Steve Curtis says the parts shortage that followed the earthquake has not been as long or severe as expected. Toyota profits dropped by 77 percent after the disaster, but Curtis says demand, at least in North America, remains high.

“We were the number one retail brand in the first quarter. Toyota was the number one retail brand in April. We’ve got ten new or redesigned vehicles coming online in the course of this year and we feel very, very excited about those models and feel it puts us in a good place,” he says.

Production of Toyota’s most popular vehicle, the Camry, will be at one hundred percent in North America this summer. Toyota manufacturing plants—including one in Georgetown, Kentucky—will increase production next month after weeks of reduced operations. Some delays, however, are expected. A new model of the Prius hybrid that was announced will be hard to find for several months due to problems manufacturing the batteries.

Some industry analysts predict Toyota will recover, though it will likely lose its title as world’s largest automaker. Others have speculated that the company may move more production to North America rather than ship vehicles that aren’t manufactured in the U.S.

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Toyota Production to Increase Faster Than Expected

Toyota Motor Company officials say North American production will rise to 70 percent of normal in June as the company begins to recover from a parts shortage caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The company cut production to about 30 percent in May by idling factories for several days or reducing production hours. Toyota further warned dealers to expect shortages of some models for several months.

Company officials now say they can increase production faster than expected, as the recovery in Japan continues.

Toyota has 13 factories in North America, one of which is in Georgetown, Kentucky. No layoffs are planned during the production drop.

Additional information from the Associated Press

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Toyota Production Delays Continue

As a parts shortage caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan continues, Toyota Motor Company will further reduce production at North American plants, including a facility in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Earlier this month, the company announced that plants would be closed on Mondays and Fridays through late April. That pattern is now being extended through early June, and production will be halved Tuesdays through Thursdays. Production will be suspended for an entire week after Memorial Day.

Company officials say a decision on further delays will be made later.

As with previous production halts, workers will be allowed to show up at the plants and be paid to perform other jobs not related to production or go through additional training. No layoffs are planned. Governor Steve Beshear is applauding that decision.

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Toyota to Halt Production for Several Days

As a shortage of parts from Japan continues, the Toyota Motor Company will halt production at its North American plants this month.

Plants will not produce vehicles on the 15th, 18th, 21st, 22nd and 25th. However the Georgetown Kentucky plant will be active on the 21st.

It’s possible the parts shortage will continue beyond this month, and Toyota spokesperson Tania Saldana says the five days later this month are the only scheduled so far.