How likely is an earthquake in the Midwest, South? The Big One could be coming

The big earthquake, in the New Madrid (Missouri) Seismic Zone. But don’t start quaking in your running shoes and try to escape to Texas because it’s comparatively geologically stable. Here’s why: In 1971 I heard a very informed discussion of the New Madrid Fault, which is centered in New Madrid. In one geologist’s opinion, that unfortunate “piston” (the word he used) could have generated a mega-quake some time in the 1970s or early 1980s. That mega-quake did not occur. However, the geologist was not making a prediction — he was assessing the fault’s instability based on data he had seen. That noted, I still recall the description of the 1811 New Madrid mega-quake.

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This linked article sketches the disaster:

Back in 1811, New Madrid, Missouri, itself had only 400 people, St. Louis to the north had about 1,500 residents and Memphis to the south wasn’t even a twinkle in its founders’ eyes, according to the Central United States Earthquake Consortium. Damage was reported as far away as Charleston, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia; and the quakes, estimated at 7.5 to 7.7 magnitude, were felt more than 1,000 miles away in Connecticut.

The article includes this 21st century assessment:

Seismologists estimate that the New Madrid Seismic Zone has a 25 percent to 40 percent chance of producing a significant quake within the next 50 years, according to Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. USGS studies have concluded that the zone has generated magnitude 7 to 8 earthquakes about every 500 years for the past 1,200 years.

Read the entire article — it’s an accessible description of the geological threat. As for escaping to Texas, please stay away. It’s absolutely terrible down here. We have hurricanes and tornadoes and sweltering summers and gazillions of feral hogs. The worst of it: increasingly terrible traffic thanks to tax migrants fleeing California.

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h/t AB



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