New Madrid earthquake anniversary

You may remember learning about the New Madrid earthquakes in science class.

There were 3 main shocks between December 1811 and February 1812, all with a magnitude of 7.0 or greater, that were felt as far away as the east coast.

There were also thousands of aftershocks, some quite strong themselves.

"all three of these earthquakes affected a very broad area. Of course, chimneys, forest damage, was part of all of this, but the most significant thing that was witnessed during those three earthquakes and reported was a lot of changes in the Mississippi River. Landslides with the banks of the river giving way, islands disappearing, or new ones forming in other locations, liquefaction, resulting in flooding of several towns," said Walt Gray, Indiana Geological Survey.

There weren’t many people living in the region when the earthquakes happened. The structures that were there were small, and looked a lot more like this log chapel.

But many geologists believe there will be another big earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone. And with booming populations in big cities like St. Louis and Memphis, plus some complicated infrastructure, a repeat performance could be devastating.

"A lot of boat captains were reporting that the rivers were just inundated with debris…trees, huge waves as the banks of the Mississippi were to fall in. If something like that was to happen today, I’m sure we would see a lot of bridge damage. And a lot of damage to transmission lines and pipelines which cross the Mississippi River," said Gray.

“As you already know that American Society of Civil Engineers, which I belong to, has already given a very poor grade card to American infrastructure. And I think most of our bridges, as we have just seen an example of our bridge here near downtown has formed some cracks. And many bridges are very, very old, and they are quite brittle, and earthquake and brittleness doesn’t go together," said Ahsan Kareem, engineering professor at Notre Dame.

But if we did see another large quake near New Madrid, what would that mean for us up here?

“What we’re going to be experiencing there? Broken dishes, loose objects falling off of walls, coming out of cabinets. Certainly very frightening and very loud, but actually very little structural damage unless the structure that we’re in was poorly constructed to begin with," said Gray.

“You would have sheet rock crack a little bit here, or the joints might displace in this part because you would have very light, even if we have the same earthquake over there, by the time it arrives here it would not have that much strength,” said Kareem.

Even so, we would probably not see much structural damage, but loose objects could be a problem.

Many schools and businesses across the central United States, including here in Michiana will be practicing just that Tuesday morning.

It's part of the Great Central U.S. Shakeout; an earthquake drill which will increase awareness of what to do in the event of an earthquake.

We can't yet predict when earthquakes will strike, but if you find yourself in the middle of one, knowing what to do is essential.

Just like with any natural disaster, such as a severe weather, it is important for your family to have a plan for what to do, and to have an emergency kit on hand with food, water and supplies.


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