New Madrid Fault Overdue for Earthquake

Betcha didn't know that February is Earthquake Awareness Month in Missouri.

Betcha also didn't know that Missouri is overdue for a significant earthquake.

Those two issues were what Governor Jay Nixon and other officials discussed last week at a meeting in the town of New Madrid, home to the fault line that famously generated an 8.0 earthquake in 1812 that made the Mississippi River flow backward and rang church bells as far away as New England.

And while such a quake is only expected to occur once every five hundred years, the region is past due for a significant quake measuring 6 to 6.5 on the Richter scale.

"We are due, if not overdue, for a moderate-sized earthquake,'' says Missouri state geologist Joe Gillman.

Gillman notes that New Madrid is expected to produce a "moderate" 6.0 to 6.5 quake every 90 years. The last such quake to occur was in the late 1890s, meaning we're about 40 years overdue.

A 6.0 to 6.5 earthquake could crumble buildings and devastate infrastructure such as power lines and sewers, says Gillman. Still it would likely be less deadly than last month's 7.3 earthquake in Haiti.
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