The New Madrid Fault Zone is a major seismic zone and a prolific source of intraplate earthquakes (earthquakes within a tectonic plate) in the southern and midwestern United States, stretching to the southwest from New Madrid, Missouri. It was responsible for the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes and may have the potential to produce large earthquakes in the future. Since 1812 frequent smaller earthquakes were recorded in the area. Earthquakes that occur in the New Madrid Seismic Zone potentially threaten parts of seven American states: Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi.
The 1811-1812 earthquakes were all 7.0-8.0 and very powerful. Some sections of the Mississippi River appeared to run backward for a short time. Sand blows were common throughout the area, and can still be seen from the air in cultivated fields. The shockwaves propagated efficiently through the firm midwestern bedrock, with residents as far away as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Norfolk, Virginia, awakened by intense shaking. Church bells were reported to ring as far as Boston, Massachusetts and York, Ontario (now Toronto), and sidewalks were reported to have been cracked and broken in Washington, D.C. There were also reports of toppled chimneys in Maine.
4.0 earthquake in Missouri shakes 9 states USGS geophysicist says he's heard reports of cracks MSNBC - February 20, 2012
Only minor damage is reported after an earthquake centered in southeast Missouri shook at least nine states. The U.S. Geological Survey says the magnitude 4.0 earthquake was centered near the town of East Prairie, Missouri. Geological Survey geophysicist Amy Vaughan says several people in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee reported being awakened by the quake that happened at 3:58 a.m. GMT. A few residents of North Carolina, Alabama, Indiana and Georgia also felt it.
Just ten days ago, engineers, scientists, emergency first responders and earthquake history fans gathered at Saint Louis University for an event commemorating the two-hundredth anniversary of the mighty New Madrid Earthquake of 1811 and 1812. That quake, estimated to be an eight on the Richter scale, wrought devastation throughout the New Madrid Zone of Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. This is the quake that famously made the Mississippi River run backward -- the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2010 was magnitude ten, by way of comparison.
Is this morning's temblor a precursor to something larger? No one can say. Some researches, such as Seth Stein (author of Disaster Deferred), believe the New Madrid Fault is shutting down, and we'll never have that devastating quake.
In May 2011, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) ran a White House mandated exercise, referred to as the National Level Exercise 2011 (NLE 11), simulating the response to the equivalent of the 1811/1812 New Madrid earthquakes. The purpose was to evaluate the nation's catastrophic event preparedness by assessing the capabilities for multi-jurisdictional, integrated response to a national catastrophic event. The exercise included participants from various federal, state, and local agencies, as well as private sector and nonprofit organizations. In May FEMA is holding a national-level emergency response drill in the New Madrid Seismic Zone that will simulate a catastrophic earthquake. Better to be prepared than caught unaware. Read more ...
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