|Manu||Date: Saturday, 05-March-2022, 5:20 AM | Message # 1|
|Experts: Central U.S. needs to be ready for next earthquake|
by Jim Salter
Experts have warned for decades that a large swath of the central U.S. is at high risk for a devastating earthquake. They know that overcoming complacency is among their biggest hurdles
Hundreds of emergency managers, transportation leaders, geologists and others devoted to earthquake preparedness gathered Thursday in St. Louis for the annual Missouri Earthquake Summit to discuss the latest information on risks, preparedness strategies and recovery planning.
Large and devastating earthquakes in the U.S. are most commonly associated with the West Coast—for good reason since the worst quakes in recent years, including the massive 1989 quake in the San Francisco area that killed 63 people and injured nearly 3,800—have mostly been in the West.
But the New Madrid (MAH'-drid) Fault Line centered near the southeast Missouri town of New Madrid produced three magnitude 7.5 to 7.7 earthquakes that rang church bells as far away as South Carolina, caused farmland to sink into swamps and briefly caused the Mississippi River to flow backward.
Those quakes happened in late 1811 and early 1812. Though the fault line still produces about 200 small earthquakes each year, people within the region have heard warnings for so long about the next Big One that, for many, it goes in one ear and out the other.
"Because it hasn't happened, and with people's busy everyday lives, it kind of falls into the background," said Robbie Myers, emergency management director for Butler County, Missouri, in the heart of the New Madrid zone.
The earthquake threat received the most attention more than three decades ago when climatologist Iben Browning predicted a 50-50 chance of a big earthquake on a specific day—Dec. 3, 1990. His prediction drew scores of journalists and onlookers to New Madrid to see—nothing.
Still, experts believe there is a 7-10% chance of a magnitude 7.0 or greater earthquake in the next 50 years within the New Madrid zone, and a 25-40% chance of a smaller but still potentially devastating magnitude 6.0 quake. The Midwestern risk is "similar to the chances in California," said Thomas Pratt, Central and Eastern U.S. coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Hazards Program.
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