"Six million people living in Midwestern states could be at risk
if an earthquake occurred along the New Madrid fault line which
runs diagonally from Marked Tree, Arkansas to southeastern
Missouri." from the first article

".......................few people outside of the country are
aware that the deadliest earthquakes occurred in 1811 and 1812,
right here in the heart of the American Midwest along the
Mississippi River. The Great New Madrid Earthquakes were one of
the most extraordinary geologic events in recorded history and
remains as one of the most violent earthquakes that occurred
anywhere in the world." from the second article

Text of

New Madrid Fault Poses Potential Risk to Midwestern States
Posted on Fri, 08 Oct 2004 19:28:28 GMT
Written by Jennifer Brill, DisasterRelief.org Writer

Six million people living in midwestern states could be at risk
if an earthquake occured along the New Madrid fault line which
runs diagonally from Marked Tree, Arkansas to southeastern

That's why the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium headquartered
its operation in Memphis, the southernmost largest city on the

An earthquake in this midwest region would cause more damage
than one on the west coast, says Elaine Clyburn, a response
planner with Red Cross Disaster Services. Clyburn is assigned to
the consortium to help educate the community on earthquake

In addition to the fault line, the region's geology poses
additional challenges.

Because the soil in the central U.S. is looser and sandier than
on the west coast, Clyburn says, "the shockwaves from an
earthquake would travel much farther and the same magnitude
earthquake on the west coast would be about 10 times worse in
the central U.S."

Experts say that an earthquake could occur anywhere along the
fault line running from Memphis to its northern point in St.

Seven states especially at risk from the New Madrid fault line
belong to the consortium: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky,
Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi.

"In the central U.S., a major earthquake would affect the entire
country," Clyburn says. "A lot of commerce depends on railroads
and 18-wheelers. It would be like having a hole in the middle of
the country."

The worst quake to hit this region occurred in 1811 when the
earth moved enough to cause the Mississippi River to temporarily
reverse its usual course of north to south. Whole lakes were
created, such as the Reelfoot Lake in Kentucky.

In 1811 the population was a fraction of its current size.
Today, many more people would be affected by a quake similar to
that of 1811, which registered around 9.0 on the Richter scale.
Clyburn says that would be "so scary that it's hard to talk
about preparing for it."

The possibility of such a quake should offer residents a strong
incentive to learn how to ready themselves for an earthquake
during April's Earthquake Preparedness Month.

Clyburn says that enhanced preparation is especially necessary
in the Memphis-St. Louis area where adhering to building codes
is an issue.

"Humanity has not paid much attention to where we put our
buildings. We like the idea of building where we want to build,"
which may not be such a good idea when a fault line is involved.

Each of the seven states at risk from the New Madrid fault line
promotes awareness, supported by the consortium. Building
awareness takes on several forms, Clyburn says, such as
sponsoring poster contests for children and posting displays at
the public library.

"There's no way to predict when one could happen," Clyburn says,
though she adds, "There's an excellent chance that we'll lave a
major earthquake in the next 15 years."

The area has two earthquakes a week but they're generally not
felt. Instruments placed underground, called "seismic networks,"
are sensitive enough to differentiate between a train and a
tremor in the earth.

"It's easy to behave as if there is no threat, or to be unaware
of it," Clyburn says. "That's why we try to educate people."

Since earthquakes can't be predicted, they're generally talked
about in terms of probabilities and historical evidence.

"A fault is buried under the earth, so it's not like looking at
the sky and seeing a dark cloud," Clyburn explains.

Link to more stories on my web site. Paul


Text of http://www.tuppenceworth.ie/biglife/quake.html

The Great New Madrid Earthquakes

Whenever most people think of an earthquake in the United
States, they think of the one that hit San Francisco in 1906, or
they think of the famous San Andreas Fault that causes such a
stir in the media. But few people outside of the country are
aware that the deadliest earthquakes occurred in 1811 and 1812,
right here in the heart of the American Midwest along the
Mississippi River. The Great New Madrid Earthquakes were one of
the most extraordinary geologic events in recorded history and
remains as one of the most violent earthquakes that occurred
anywhere in the world.

It all started at precisely 2:30 a.m., December 16, 1811. That's
when the town of Big Prairie, in the Mississippi River flood
plain region located in the state of Arkansas, ceased to exist.
The pioneer settlers of the village ran for their lives as the
town sank and quickly became a part of the river. The quake that
caused the destruction is believed to have been about 8.0 on the
Richter Scale. It completely devastated the entire region. The
mighty Mississippi churned into a virtual maelstrom as mile
after mile of river banks collapsed. Two entire islands
disappeared, one inhabited by a band of river pirates, who all
perished in a moment of fearsome justice.

About 50 miles north of Big Prairie was the town of Little
Prairie in the present day state of Missouri. The same quake
shook the residents of the community, who grabbed their children
and ran into the cold winter night, watching their primitive log
homes creak and crack, ashes and coals from the fireplaces
catching the timbers on fire and the town went up in flames. As
they sifted through the rubble in the early morning hours, a
second great shock hit around 8 a.m. that caused the ground to
heave and crack. Fissures opened and slammed shut, exploding
with spewing water and blasting carbonized wood high into the
air. Survivors claimed the ground rolled in waves. An enormous
crater developed outside where the town once stood on level
ground while sprawling crevasses passed beneath trees, splitting
them upward from the roots.

As the people stared down into the growing crater, they saw the
dark, viscous fluids that gurgled as brimstone shot into the
air. They believed it was the end of the world.

It was in fact, only the beginning of their ordeal. Amidst their
terror, a third shock hit. The soil itself began to boil while
water oozed upward and began to fill the whole region as the
land sank and the Mississippi began to flood the horizon.
Grabbing their children, they ran, then waded, then swam for
nearly eight miles, battling coyotes, snakes and other wildlife
that was forced to swim. They finally reached high ground near
present day Hayti (pronounced hay-tie), Missouri.

Tremors continued. They became more numerous and stronger as the
days and weeks passed until January 7, 1812, when another,
though less powerful quake hit the area. Then at 9 a.m. on
January 23rd, a massive 8.4 magnitude quake hit the region with
renewed vengeance. The town of Point Pleasant in the state of
Illinois collapsed into the Mississippi, though no one died as
the residents had evacuated just a few days earlier. Sand boils
created a natural dam across what was Reelfoot Creek in the
state of Tennessee, creating what is a favorite camping and
fishing area today known as Reelfoot Lake. Tremors continued
uninterrupted day and night. By February 5, 1812, one resident
noted the earth, "twitched and jerked like a side of freshly
killed beef."

Then, the big one hit. At nearly 3:30 a.m., February 7, 1812,
the most violent earthquake in recorded U.S. history hit the
eastern half of the continent. It probably measured over 8.8 on
the Richter Scale, or the equivalent of an underground nuclear
blast. It's center is believed to have been under what is today
an innocent looking rest area along Interstate Highway 55
between the towns of Marston and New Madrid, Missouri. For
several hours, the earth shook so violently that the Mississippi
River actually ran backward and waterfalls formed and lasted for
weeks as the ground heaved in anger. Towering waves were cast
over the banks and shattered trees along several thousand acres
of shoreline. Riverboats were launched out of the river and onto
dry land with an unknown death toll. In the predawn light, one
boat was transported upstream, then floated down again,
surviving one set of falls and then managed to steer ashore to
the cheer of the townsfolk. No one else was so fortunate as 30
other boats that had been moored to the docks were smashed by
the waves with total loss of life.

The terrified residents of New Madrid who watched the spectacle
said the earth literally swallowed the river in huge chasms
which then slammed shut, the water shooting hundreds of feet
into the air like fountains.

News traveled fast. Later that morning as the earthquake rippled
across the continent, the South Carolina legislature near the
Atlantic Ocean prepared for another day in the state capitol
when they convened in panic as the building shook. President
Madison was jolted out of his bed in Washington, D.C. as the
White House trembled. Church bells rang in Boston, Massachusetts
nearly 1000 miles from the epicenter and as the weeks passed,
reports came from as far away as Cuba and Canada confirming the
power of the earthquake.

Aftershocks continued for another six months along the quake
zone as folks struggled to rebuild homes and towns. One of the
most bizarre reports was from a few pioneer farmers who
independently claimed that all during the New Madrid episode
that lasted nearly a year, wildlife of all sorts congregated
around their homes, possibly seeking refuge and losing their
fear of man.

There is of course, much speculation by scientists as to whether
or not the central region of the United States is in for a
repeat of events as the 1811-12 quakes. Colleges and government
at all levels in the region have taken a particular interest in
the fault zone that seems to be some sort of stretch mark in the
center of the continent -- a hole in the North American tectonic
plate system. Unlike the more famous San Andreas Fault zone in
far away California, the New Madrid fault has no real beginning
or end, no defined region and the rock strata is such that
quakes are amplified, explaining the Feb. 7, 1812 quake. There
are hundreds, perhaps thousands of tiny fault areas, all
spreading in different directions, though researchers have
recently linked the fault area to the magnetic differences of
the igneous rock strata on either side of what is being
recognized as a very complex rift that extends as far south as
perhaps the Gulf of Mexico, defining the course of the
Mississippi River. Some predictions have even gone so far as to
say that within our lifetime, the entire region will sink into
the Gulf of Mexico, which will extend all the way to the Great
Lake region.

While most experts believe the 1811-12 episode may only occur
once every 500-3000 years, others caution that the same quakes
buried some fault zones that continue to build up dangerous
amounts of energy. It is predicted that a 6.0 magnitude
earthquake should occur in the area by the year 2025.

Had the 1811-12 quakes occurred today and not then, the
devastation would have been so enormous that economists claim
the U.S. may not have recovered from such destruction to the
surrounding cities and infrastructure and laws have been passed
and experts from around the world, most notably Japan, have come
to guide state governments and engineers on how to construct
earthquake proof skyscrapers and bridges.

Today, as I write this from my own residence hardly 100 miles
from the epicenter of the quake zone, we hear almost monthly on
the television about the latest tremors. Indeed, the New Madrid
area has the most earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains, with
tremors at least every 2 minutes, though only a fraction of
those can be felt by humans. The 1811-12 quakes are a part of
the interesting and troublesome aspect of this region of the
country and somewhere in the back of all our minds is the
disturbing thought that no one really knows when the next big
quake might hit.

To learn more, I suggest researching the subject of the New
Madrid earthquake zone by going to the following internet sites:




Fred Roe
3rd November 2002

Link to more stories on my web site. Paul


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