Another major earthquake on New Madrid is inevitable, geologists say it’s only a matter of time

May 27, 2013 MISSOURIIt’s a bleak scenario. A massive earthquake along the New Madrid fault kills or injures 60,000 people in Tennessee. A quarter of a million people are homeless. The Memphis airport — the country’s biggest air terminal for packages — goes off-line. Major oil and gas pipelines across Tennessee rupture, causing shortages in the Northeast. In Missouri, another 15,000 people are hurt or dead. Cities and towns throughout the central U.S. lose power and water for months. Losses stack up to hundreds of billions of dollars. Fortunately, this magnitude 7.7 temblor is not real but rather a scenario imagined by the Mid-America Earthquake Center and the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University. The goal of their 2008 analysis was to plan for a modern recurrence of quakes that happened along the New Madrid fault more than 200 years ago, in 1811 and 1812. No one alive has experienced a major earthquake in the Midwest, yet geologists say it’s only a matter of time. That puts a lot of uncertainty on disaster officials. Their earthquake precautions — quake-resistant building codes, for example — have never been reality tested. Some question if enough has been done to strengthen existing buildings, schools and other infrastructure. It is difficult to prepare for a geological catastrophe the public cannot see and has never experienced. “We mostly react to disasters, and it’s been extremely rare that we get ahead of things,” said Claire Rubin, a disaster response specialist in Arlington, Va. “A lot of hard problems don’t get solved. They get moved around and passed along.” Steven L. Lueker is among disaster response officials who worry about the New Madrid fault and another fault to the north, in the Wabash Valley. He’s the emergency management coordinator for Jefferson County in Southern Illinois, and he rattles off likely impact statistics. One of the most important: The New Madrid fault is expected to generate a large-scale earthquake within the next 50 years. “I may not be here when it happens,” said Lueker. “Or it may happen while we’re talking. You don’t know.” When it does happen, Lueker said Mount Vernon, the Jefferson County seat, likely will be a staging area for support flowing into Tennessee and Missouri — unless the Mount Vernon airport itself is too damaged. He doesn’t — can’t — know.  Uncertainty is the maddening aspect of earthquakes. They can’t be predicted, even very big ones. We know they happen frequently along the Earth’s tectonic plates. We also know there are no such plates in the central United States, yet that part of the country has had major earthquakes in three zones: the New Madrid fault, which on computer models looks like Harry Potter’s scar slashing across Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee; the Wabash Valley fault in Illinois and Indiana; and the East Tennessee Seismic Zone that runs into Alabama.  These are not like the faults in California, which last had a major earthquake in 1994, when the magnitude 6.7 Northridge temblor killed 57 people and caused $20 billion in damages. The mid-continent faults rupture less often; New Madrid gets the shakes maybe 200 times a year, about a tenth the number in California. And earthquakes in the central United States tend to be smaller. The New Madrid fault appears to have a big rupture every 300 years or so; the Wabash Valley has one perhaps every 500 years.  But when quakes do hit the central United States, geology means they are felt much farther away, because the Earth’s crust in the region does not absorb the shock waves in the way it does in the Western United States. “The Northridge earthquake was barely felt in Las Vegas, 250 miles away,” said Gary Patterson, director of education and outreach at the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis. “Here, a large quake would be felt 1,200 miles away in Canada.” Not everyone thinks the New Madrid fault will produce another big earthquake. Seth Stein, a geologist at Northwestern University, has argued that the small quakes occurring along the fault are not the kind that suggests the Earth is gathering energy for a large one. “He’s a smart guy,” said Patterson. “But it’s interesting that you have to go 500 miles away from the fault to find a scientist who disagrees with the consensus” that another New Madrid quake is inevitable.  At the same time, Patterson and others concede it is difficult to explain why the faults in the central United States are active at all. –DDC
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21 Responses to Another major earthquake on New Madrid is inevitable, geologists say it’s only a matter of time

  1. Just me says:

    Hey Alvin
    Looking lately at ceri sure looks like the new Madrid is groaning


  2. JD says:

    Yesterday morning I dreamed of an inland sea that was roughly triangular in shape. It stretched from southern Montana at the uppermost part down toward Colorado and then east to Missouri.


  3. Irene C says:

    This is the area I’m watching. Although any earthquake is disastrous, this one will be worse. The Midwest is not ready for a major earthquake.


  4. Colleen says:

    I live in Kentucky. I wonder how bad it will affect my state? It may not happen in our day. Then again, who knows? Only God knows.


  5. Watchman says:

    if you live in the area, plan… 1yr food, a good set of berkey or propur filters, 5-6 55gal water barrels, sanitation and toiletries for a year, a couple camp stoves and 3-4 100# LP bottles filled…and seed banks seed banks seed banks…..stock up on things to replenish your supply, an hopefully move forward into normalcy. When it hits, FEMA is NOT your friend

    I have property outside Jax TN, although I live in FL for majority, Im stocked there, just in case


  6. musivick says:

    why are there mid continent faults & quakes at all ?
    because there are Mantle Plumes below the continental plate and the gravitational force of the Moon on the surface …together the above and below ground forces also have the stretching of Plate Tectonics as a factor
    Eventually the North American Plate may divide at the New Madrid center from the tremendous flexing of the crust which is like a taunt drum skin which is always distressed & ready to break


    • I agree with you, musivick. I personally believe that the Reelfoot Rift Zone is the geologic precursor to something akin to Africa’s Great Rift Valley, which after all wasn’t created overnight. Look at any geologic maps of what North America will look like in the future and one of the biggest changes lies along the Mississippi Valley, which will become a broad fjord reaching nearly to the Great Lakes. The New Madrid fault system will prove to be the culprit for bringing that change about.


  7. Marshallrn says:

    With the US having a season for wildfires in the west, tornados and floods in the mid west, and hurricanes in the east; just imaging how difficult a job FEMA or the Red Cross would have if during a bad season in all of these areas the New Madrid and San Andreas both spit out their highly anticipated Mega Quakes along with a small Tsunami in the Washington and Oregon regions.
    Can American actually handle Mother Nature and all her power? We will some day find out.


    • Coyote's Bro says:

      I really doubt they would all happen at the same time or even within the same season, BUT even one of them will impact for the worse our national economy.


  8. mark js says:

    To Alvin,

    Thank you for a timely and relevant website of current events.

    I submitted a comment for the article about a certain earthquake coming to the Midwest… F.Y.I… It is below… Maybe you didn’t get around to publishing it… Maybe you thought it best not to.

    Well my friend, I did my part- to prevent death and tragedy. If an EQ happens in the Midwest and people die- it’s on you. My hands are clean.

    Take Care… FeedScrn

    —————————————–Comment submitted (copy) —————————————
    Article states:
    “Their earthquake precautions — quake-resistant building codes, for example — have never been reality tested. Some question if enough has been done to strengthen existing buildings, schools and other infrastructure. It is difficult to prepare for a geological catastrophe the public cannot see and has never experienced. “We mostly react to disasters, and it’s been extremely rare that we get ahead of things,” said Claire Rubin”

    If these guys are “experts”, as they say… then they should be heeded. If these “experts” are just best-guessing… then they’re useless.

    If “the experts” are really, really sure of their prediction, and it’s not a bunch of hooey… quake-resistant building codes can help, but that’s only a band-aid, hope-for-the-best solution. The real solution is that the government needs to start evacuating all the major and minor cities in the earthquake zone Now, especially the area in the center of the earthquake zone. They need to execute eminent domain, and evacuate. The government should not let the earthquake do this evacuating. Turn all of these areas/states in major farmland areas…. It’s a little late to evacuate AFTER it hits, AFTER hundreds of thousands die or are injured…. We don’t need to see or deal with that kind of disaster. It’s totally preventable. That way, very, very few people will die when the EQ hits.


    • And we likewise need to evacuate the Western half of The States due to the inevitable impending eruption of the Yellowstone caldera. And evacuate the East Coast due to the inevitable impending Cumbre Vieja tsunami. Now that the whole nation is a disaster waiting to happen, it only make sense that we should invade Canada (you know, just in case one of these scenarios happens)!

      Good luck trying to force millions and millions of Mid-Westerners from their homes. We tend to be a bit touchy about our rights being infringed upon. I have my stored water and food, survival plans and such. But yeah, I’m going to just stay put right here on the Ol’ Miss’.


  9. robert croson says:

    Pray it wont


  10. Sonya says:

    That sucks I live in middle Tennessee


    • Coyote's Bro says:

      Get a map and go see a new place to live, nice not being a plant stuck in the ground! ( I have had to live in many places –it’s not easy to pack and move.)


  11. Shrimp and grits says:

    I don’t think people can truly phathom the magnitude and intensity of the New Madrid Fault should it erupt. Most Americans are not and will not be prepared for such an epic, catastrophic event. If you take a close look at the Fault from top to bottom, you can find 11 nuclear reactor plants from MO to LA – they are actually ON the fault line. It’s not just going to be an earthquake – it’s going to be a nuclear earthquake – power grid failures for months on end – little or no communication for your cell phones – little or no food – semi’s and megatrucks won’t be able to go through the Midwest or across the nation to deliver food, goods and supplies. And you are right – FEMA won’t be able to help very much – the land for 200 miles in every direction is either destroyed or heavily damaged – think about it folks – the Mississippi River already flowed backwards in 1811 and 1812 from the New Madrid earthquake – but now that the fault line is known to extend to LA, a major tsumani would or could occur due to the New Madrid eruption literally splitting the US in half, and, God forbid, should the Yellowstone caldera and/ or the San Andreas fault erupts at the same time or shortly before or after the New Madrid fault explodes. Personally, I would never live anywhere near the New Madrid fault zone. I would find somewhere else to live and get away from it. I kinow of folks in OK who have been stocking up food, goods, supplies for the last two years trying to be prepared for this event. But the reality is this – they just felt like they needed to leave the area altogether and move eastward – they settled in NC. If we are smart, we will prepare NOW and stock up food, goods, water and supplies for at least one year. You might not like it, but in reality, you’re gonna have to become a doomsday sort of prepper – someone who has their mess together as much as possible. Our cars are even packed with all fluids, car emergency kits, bug out bags, first aid kits and one packed suitcase per person. And please – don’t forget the toilet paper – things we take for granted right now would become seriously scarce should this thing erupt. Prepare – prepare – prepare – just sayn’


    • Bruce Jasman says:

      Just think of the dams in the areas affected by the New Madrid fault zone. Would you want to be living downstream of one the next time New Madrid erupts with a big one?


  12. Meg says:

    Hope we don’t die.


  13. Coyote's Bro says:

    We have huge airplanes in the country that would be used as well as helicopters to bring in supplies and help to the locals. I don’t want to give in to Godzilla – sized events that won’t happen.


  14. Nancy Sullivan says:

    Is anyone here familiar with HAARP, or Earth Penetrating Tomography (EPT)? Also check out drilling, detonating, and fracking along with injecting millions of gallons of water into the Louisiana Salt Domes that more than likely is causing the huge sink holes and earth quakes.Look into geoengineering and chemtrails folks, so you understand what’s really going on.


  15. Oh No says:

    well I live by the Mississippi river in Tennessee…help us all. Have been learning about this and hope it doesn’t go off while im alive


  16. Teddy Frederick says:

    I cant wait. I’m excited to literally be shaken by the earth! In my opinion, earthquakes are one of the best natural disasters! Ive been dreaming for this day😀


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