The aftershocks that rippled around Chicago and other parts of the Midwest on Friday were not only seismic but stupefying: That shaking...

The aftershocks that rippled around Chicago and other parts of the Midwest on Friday were not only seismic but stupefying: That shaking and swaying early Friday, Chicagoans asked one another, was that really an earthquake? It was.

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.2 hit southern Illinois at 4:36 a.m., said Gary Patterson, a geologist at the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information in Tennessee.

The quake shook an area of about 120,000 square miles from northern Michigan south to Memphis, Tenn., and from Kansas City, Mo., east to Nashville, Tenn. At the epicenter, near West Salem, Ill., just west of the Indiana border, buildings sustained minor structural damage.

No one was killed, and only minor injuries were reported. Farther out, skyscrapers wiggled, at least one chimney collapsed, and nerves were rattled for many people who awoke in a sleepy fog, not sure why their headboards were clanking against the wall.

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The earthquake originated in what geologists call the Ozark Dome region, which covers about five Southern and Midwestern states and includes several active fault lines. It was unclear Friday, several experts said, which fault triggered the tremor.

Chicago

Man freed on bond, may get new trial

Alton Logan, 54, locked away 26 years for murder, was granted a new trial and freed on bond Friday with the help of two attorneys who came forward with a client’s confession after he died in prison.

Alton Logan’s family took up a collection in the lobby of the Cook County Criminal Courthouse for the $1,000 needed to post bond.

Two attorneys recently revealed their former client, Andrew Wilson, admitted committing the crime that sent Logan to prison, but attorney-client privilege had kept them from coming forward.

Washington

Bush nominates new HUD chief

President Bush said Friday he would nominate Steven Preston, the head of the Small Business Administration, to take over the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at a time the housing industry is in turmoil.

If confirmed by the Senate, Preston would replace Alphonso Jackson, who resigned March 31 amid a criminal investigation into favoritism in awarding contracts.

Although only nine months remain in the president’s tenure, the nomination carries unusual importance because the subprime mortgage crisis and foreclosures are rippling through the economy.

Preston, 47, joined the Bush administration after serving as an executive vice president and chief financial officer of ServiceMaster, which operates Terminix TruGreen and Merry Maids, among other companies.

Washington

FAA is establishing safety-alert system

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is going to begin alerting its top headquarters officials when field inspectors miss airline safety inspections, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said Friday.

Peters also demanded that the FAA and American Airlines explain to her within 14 days why 250,000 U.S. air travelers endured canceled flights last week. American grounded its MD-80 jetliners and canceled 3,100 flights to reinspect or redo wiring that was supposed to have been completed between Sept. 5, 2006, and March 5, 2008.

Peters also announced a series of steps to improve safety, including having the FAA begin requiring senior field office officials to sign off on voluntary safety disclosures by airlines.

West Lafayette, Ind.

Study: Cars a major risk to amphibians

Death by car could be a major contributor to the decline of many amphibian species, according to the first comprehensive survey of roadkill, Purdue University researchers said.

The biologists found animals from more than 65 species killed along 11 miles of road in suburban Tippecanoe County outside West Lafayette. Nearly 95 percent of the dead were frogs and other amphibians, and three-quarters of the deaths occurred along a one-mile stretch of road that crosses a wetland.

Over the 17-month study, biologists Andrew DeWoody and Dave Glista of Purdue collected 10,500 identifiable dead animals, they reported online in the journal Herpetological Conservation and Biology.

Also

California prison officials said Friday they cleared five employees of wrongdoing in the early release of former Symbionese Liberation Front member Sara Jane Olson, now serving another year.

Seattle Times news services