The New Madrid Fault may take out 150 miles of the Midwest

Way back in 1811 and 1812, a series of over 1,000 earthquakes rocked the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Memphis. One was so powerful that it caused the river to run backwards for a few hours. The infamous New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 rang church bells in Boston, which is 1,200 miles from St. Louis. Today, scientists say that the 150-mile-long New Madrid Seismic Zone has a terrifying 40% chance to blast in the next few decades, impacting 7 states – Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi – with 715,000 buildings damaged and 2.6m people left without power.

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This map shows earthquakes (circles) of the New Madrid and Wabash Valley seismic zones (orange patches). Red circles indicate earthquakes that occurred from 1974 to 2002 with magnitudes larger than 2.5 located using modern instruments (University of Memphis). Green circles denote earthquakes that occurred prior to 1974 (USGS Professional Paper 1527). Larger earthquakes are represented by larger circles. via USGS

Unlike California, which has been super-prepared since the last major earthquake hit hard enough to delay the World Series, the New Madrid fault area has been sitting blissfully by. In case the “40 percent” statistic didn’t bother you, this should: The New Madrid fault has an impact zone ten times as big as its more famous San Andreas cousin.

new madrid fault vs san andreas fault, comparison new madrid san adreas, san andreas vs new madrid
The map compares the isoseismals from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the 1811-1812 New Madrid quakes. The New Madrid Fault is much more powerful! via uwgb.edu

As described by USGS: “In 1811, the extent of the area that experienced damaging earth motion, which produced Modified Mercalli Intensity greater than or equal to VII, is estimated to be 600,000 square kilometers. However, shaking strong enough to alarm the general population (intensity greater than or equal to V) occurred over an area of 2.5 million square kilometers.”

Citizens from all of the bordering states on the fault are totally unprepared, and the infrastructure is decades overdue for some quakeproofing.

So my best advice if you live in this dangerously seismic active area of the United States is to have an earthquake plan, if you still don’t have one. And don’t wait too long, the next New Madrid Earthquake is slowly but surely building up!

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4 COMMENTS

  1. […] Way back in 1811 and 1812, a series of over 1,000 earthquakes rocked the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Memphis. One was so powerful that it caused the river to run backwards for a few hours. The infamous New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 rang church bells in Boston, which is 1,200 miles from St. Louis. Today, scientists say that the 150-mile-long New Madrid Seismic Zone has a terrifying 40% chance to blast in the next few decades, impacting 7 states – Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi – with 715,000 buildings damaged and 2.6m people left without power. Read More… […]

  2. […] Way back in 1811 and 1812, a series of over 1,000 earthquakes rocked the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Memphis. One was so powerful that it caused the river to run backwards for a few hours. The infamous New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 rang church bells in Boston, which is 1,200 miles from St. Louis. Today, scientists say that the 150-mile-long New Madrid Seismic Zone has a terrifying 40% chance to blast in the next few decades, impacting 7 states – Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi – with 715,000 buildings damaged and 2.6m people left without power. Read More… […]

  3. […] Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi – with 715,000 buildings damaged and 2.6m people left without power. Unlike California, which has been super-prepared since the last major earthquake hit hard enough to delay the World Series, the New Madrid fault area has been sitting blissfully by. In case the “40 percent” statistic didn’t bother you, this should: The New Madrid fault has an impact zone ten times as big as its more famous San Andreas cousin. READ MORE […]

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