Monday, December 1, 2008

Earthquakes in Tennessee?

"The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move"
- Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
When Americans think of the earth moving, i.e. earthquakes, most people will picture California and the San Andreas fault. But there is another large fault in America that is less well know but equally dangerous - the New Madrid fault.
FEMA has predicted a large New Madrid earthquake would cause "widespread
and catastrophic physical damage" across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana,
Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee -- home to some 44 million
people. - Reuters

The San Andreas fault shakes frequently relieving much of the stress of two plates rubbing against each other in small earthquakes. But the New Madrid fault builds up pressure over a century or more and then snaps in a very large earthquake. When the New Madrid fault last snapped, 1811 and 1812, the course of the Mississippi River was changed and church bells rang on the East Coast.

Moreover most buildings in the New Madrid fault zone are not built to be earthquake proof. In California everyone knows about (and feels) earthquakes and so preventive measures are taken. But no one alive remembers the last New Madrid earthquake and it's a case of "out of sight, out of mind."

Bottom Line

It pays to learn the kinds of natural disasters that can occur locally to you. See my earlier post, Not in My Backyard!

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