If you were to ask 10 people on the street what the New Madrid Fault Zone is? They may think it’s a new city, or some type of tool that you can use on a house. Surprisingly, most people are not aware that one of the largest fault lines in the United States is the New Madrid Fault line, which is twenty times larger than the San Andreas fault in California.
The largest earthquake in U.s history occurred in 1811-1812, with the first large earthquake taking place on December 16th, 1811 which covered 50,000 square miles. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake in comparison, was felt in only 6,200 square feet.
Here is a picture of where the New Madrid fault is:
The Earthquakes Of The 1800’s
On December the 11th 1811, a magnitude 7.2-8.1 took place in northeast Arkansas, which caused only slight damage to man made structures, due to the small amount of residents living in the area at the time.
The little Prairie village was heavily damaged by soil liquefaction.
On December 11th 1811 a magnitude 7.2 – 8.1 struck in the northeast Arkansas. This earthquake took place just six hours after the first earthquake.
On January 23, 1812 a magnitude 7.0 – 7.8 earthquake struck the Missouri Bootheel area, and was characterized by general ground warping, ejections, fissuring, landslides, and stram banks caving in. Johnson and Schweig attributed this earthquake
to rupture on the New Madrid North Fualt.
Finally on February 7th, 1812 a magnitude 7.4 – 8.0 struck near Missouri. In St. Louis Missouri, many homes were damaged, and their chimneys were toppled. This was a ll attributed to the Reelfoot fault by Johnston and Schweig. An uplift along a segment of this
reverse fault created temporary waterfalls on the Mississippi at Kentucky Bend, and then created waves that propagated upstream, and caused the formation of Reelfoot Lake by obstructing streams in what is now Lake County Tennessee.
What Does All This Mean For Us In 2012?
In the last few weeks there has been activity along the fault line, and it is beginning to pick up. In late October many residents were rattled by an earthquake, which was the strongest earthquake in the area at the time.
Here is what Geologist have to say about another major earthquake taking place in 2012 or beyond:
“I think most people are aware that earthquakes can occur here, but they just can’t remember the last time one shook them,” said Gary Patterson, a geologist with the Center for Earthquake Research and Information in Memphis. “You take the same magnitude earthquake, put one in California, one here. The one here is going to effect ten to twenty times larger an area. That’s incredible…We know that the earthquakes of 1811, 1812 were felt 1,000 to 1,200 miles away.” –whnt.com
Just like we all witnessed with hurricane Sandy, we would see a widespread destruction of infrastructure in several states. Here is an excerpt from a wikipedia.org article that reveals which states could be affected:
In a report filed in November 2008, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that a serious earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone could result in “the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States,” further predicting “widespread and catastrophic” damage across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and particularly Tennessee, where a 7.7 magnitude quake or greater would cause damage to tens of thousands of structures affecting water distribution, transportation systems, and other vital infrastructure.- –Wikipedia.org
Along with the many states that could be affected, the electrical grid will definitely be affected by a series of earthquakes taking place along the New Madrid fault line. Remember, we live in a higher populated world than we lived in the 1800’s, and we are all much more dependent on electricity than ever before.
Here is a video describing the full scale of the New Madrid Fault Zone: