New Madrid Earthquake Activity : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Earthquake Predicted in Midwest USA

Fair Use for Educational and Research Purposes:

Major quake predicted in Midwest Active seismic zone means the 'Big One' will occur at any time

By Pamela Brogan / Gannett News Service

WASHINGTON -- An earthquake powerful enough to flatten St. Louis or Memphis, break levees on the Mississippi River and disrupt the nation's railroad system and natural gas supplies is certain to hit the Midwest. The only question, scientists say, is when. The New Madrid seismic zone, which stretches through Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana, is such a hotbed of activity that some scientists say an earthquake could strike in the next 10 to 15 years. More than 200 small earthquakes occur in the area annually. "It wouldn't surprise me if we had a quake with a magnitude of 6 within the next 10 years," said Robert Hermann professor of geophysics at St. Louis University in Missouri. "We cannot predict how big and how often earthquakes occur, but it's better to be very prudent." Arch Johnston, director of the Center of Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis, agrees the New Madrid zone could be ground zero for the next "Big One." "The public should be aware that this is an active earthquake zone, capable of producing big earthquakes," Johnston said. Johnston predicted in 1985 that there was a 40 percent to 63 percent chance the region could experience an earthquake measuring 6.0 within the next 15 years. Today, Johnston's research still is highly regarded by the scientific community, although he acknowledges earthquake forecasting is an imprecise science. "We have more information today than we had in 1985, but I'd still stick with that forecast. Predicting earthquakes is a lot like predicting the weather," Johnston said. Earthquake threat serious James Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, agreed the earthquake threat in New Madrid is serious. There are "all kinds of predictions, but Memphis could be leveled, depending upon where it hits," warned Witt, who said the federal government has an emergency response plan in effect in the event of a quake. Witt said he was most concerned about the large number of old buildings in the region, including schools and hospitals, that do not meet building seismic codes and have not been retrofitted. "That's not good," Witt said. "If people could see what I saw at Northridge (California), they would spend a little bit now and save three times the costs later. Most of the injuries occurred because of damaged buildings." The Northridge earthquake in 1994 measured magnitude 6.8 and was the second largest disaster in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Andrew. It caused more than 60 deaths, 12,000 injuries and $15.3 billion in damages, including 114,000 damaged buildings, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Scientists rank the New Madrid region fourth among active earthquake zones in the United States behind Alaska, California and the Pacific Northwest. It is of concern because of its active seismic activity and history. New Madrid ground zero New Madrid, Mo., was ground zero in 1811 and 1812 for three of the largest earthquakes in the nation's history that scientists estimate measured up to magnitude 7.9. There were claims at the time that the earthquakes were so powerful that church bells rang as far away as Boston. The quakes led Congress in 1915 to enact the first disaster relief act, despite relatively minor casualties and damages because the area was sparsely populated. In 1895, Columbia, Mo., was the site of the strongest ever earthquake recorded in the Mississippi Valley. "History repeats itself," said Edward Gray, program manager for the Missouri Seismic Safety Commission, a state group that makes earthquake safety recommendations. Federal and state earthquake emergency management experts also are concerned that a New Madrid earthquake could be particularly disastrous because of the Mississippi Valley's sandy soil. "Basically, the soil will become like play dough and it will become highly unstable," said Joseph Rachel, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's earthquake program manager. "What this means is that we should not be building critical facilities, such as hospitals and schools in areas like this." Another concern is that the nation's railroad system could be disrupted, as could natural gas supplies. Five natural gas pipelines run under the Mississippi River that provide fuel to the south and the northeast. "This is going to be a nationwide problem," Gray said. "Heck, it's going to affect Europe and Japan because they will have trouble getting goods across the country."

Copyright 2000, The Detroit News

Comment: The timing of this is extremely curious. The New Madrid has been there forever - I just wonder why this article now.

Seems like an Excellent idea to hold onto Y2K preps and rotate rather than consume.

-- Bill P (, January 27, 2000


Once you've witnessed a bad earthquake, you realize the power the earth beneath your feet can have. It's amazing, awesome, terrifying. Big life size freeway overpasses smashed like a toddler's plaything.

I live on the Balcones Fault, myself. LOL At least it's not the San Andreas anymore.

There is a lot of good information on earthquake preparedness out there. Some things a lot of people forget to have is axes and heavy shoes (pref. steel toe).

-- mommacarestx (, January 27, 2000.

Yes, the timing on this one is MORE than interesting. John Nance, in 198(something prolly 8 or 9) wrote a book on Earthquakes highlighting the PaleoGeologists and their discipline. they have suggested that we are 30 or so years overdue for a New Madrid Great Quake (book name "On Shakey Ground").

In Nov or Dec 1999, a "study" was released that suggested that the paleogeologists and paleohydrologists were all wet (Ok I had to stretch for it) and that the next Great Quake would be somewhere in the 2200's, AT LEAST a full century away.

Having followed the Paleogeologists and their research the 1999 study didn't set very well with me but, I was willing to let it ride. NOW we get R.L. Witt telling us that the time frame is 10-15 years. INTERESTING!!!


-- Chuck, a night driver (, January 27, 2000.

Here in So. Calif., I live in an area that has more faults than a Congressman on his second term.

When a time frame is given, I can't quite buy it as from experience, back in '92, and again a few months back, when they happen, they happen. It's a constant "rattle" here. In fact clusters have been coming on with more regularity, within the past few months, than any of us care for.

-- Richard (, January 27, 2000.

Richard, Doesn't that worry you? I find it amazing that people would choose to live in an area known to have quakes like the San Andreas fault etc. or for that matter the slopes of Etna. I know people have family networks, work etc but hey, why stay there? I don;t mean that in an unkind way either.

-- Perilous Pauline from Austraia (, January 27, 2000.

The timing of the above report is curious.

Another relatively unknown seismic risk area is Charleston, SC, which was all but destroyed over a hundred years ago in an appx. mag. 8 quake. That one caused damage over a wide area in the Southeast. If you check the seismic risk maps there's a sizable area of 'major' risk drawn around that city. What makes it bad for that area is that the tectonic plates aren't fragmented as in the Western US. So whenever a shake occurs--the strong effects are noticed over a wider area. The New Madrid fault zone occurs in a similar tectonic situation--any shaking would be felt over a wide area.

-- Al (, January 27, 2000.

Predictions about The New Madrid quake-zone are put out by the local news outlets every year. People become complaicent as they here it so often. Would like to know more about earthquake preparedness as we are setting on the northern-most rim of New Madrid zone.

Each year we can feel small tremors here....kind of unnerving (sp).

-- justme (, January 27, 2000.

Complacency and denial are the key factors here in Memphis. I really think that most people feel deep down that it just won't happen. This only got worse after a man who studied earthquakes made a prediction that the next big on on New Madrid would strike on a certain day in (come on memory) 1989 or 1990. All of the major media had satellite trucks at New Madrid that day and............nothing. So, even more complacency. Also, when I was talking to my friends about making at least two to three weeks' worth of preps for Y2K, I'd also throw in the fact that "If nothing happens with Y2K, at least you'll have some preps in case of the earthquake." Half the time, they just looked at me with no conviction or realization.

It will be tragic when it happens. Downtown Memphis could be demolished...and don't expect the airport and FedEx to be back in ops the next day, either.

-- David (, January 27, 2000.

I live in northwest Tennesse near New Madrid, Mo. Here is an eyewitness account of the Quake of 1811-12.


This actual eyewitness account of New Madrid Earthquake was submitted by Tracy Houpt.

The following letter was found in a book entitled, "Lorenzo Dow's Journal," Published By Joshua Martin, Printed By John B. Wolff, 1849, on pages 344 - 346.p

New Madrid, Territory of Missouri, March 22, 1816

Dear Sir, In compliance with your request, I will now give you a history, as full in detail as the limits of the letter will permit, of the late awful visitation of Providence in this place and vicinity.

On the 16th of December, 1811, about two o'clock, A.M., we were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating, which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the atmosphere, with sulphurious vapor, causing total darkness. The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go, or what to do - the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species - the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi - the current of which was retrogade for a few minutes, owing as is supposed, to an irruption in its bed -- formed a scene truly horrible.

From that time until about sunrise, a number of lighter shocks occurred; at which time one still more violent than the first took place, with the same accompaniments as the first, and the terror which had been excited in everyone, and indeed in all animal nature, was now, if possible doubled. The inhabitants fled in every direction to the country, supposing (if it can be admitted that their minds can be exercised at all) that there was less danger at a distance from, than near to the river. In one person, a female, the alarm was so great that she fainted, and could not be recovered.

There were several shocks of a day, but lighter than those already mentioned until the 23d of January, 1812, when one occurred as violent as the severest of the former ones, accompanied by the same phenomena as the former. From this time until the 4th of February the earth was in continual agitation, visibly waving as a gentle sea. On that day there was another shock, nearly as hard as the proceeding ones. Next day four such, and on the 7th about 4 o'clock A.M., a concussion took place so much more violent than those that had proceeded it, that it was dominated the hard shock. The awful darkness of the atmosphere, which was formerly saturated with sulphurious vapor, and the violence of the tempestuous thundering noise that accompanied it, together with all of the other phenomena mentioned as attending the former ones, formed a scene, the description of which would require the most sublimely fanciful imagination.

At first the Mississippi seemed to recede from its banks, and its waters gathering up like a mountain, leaving for the moment many boats, which were here on their way to New Orleans, on bare sand, in which time the poor sailors made their escape from them. It then rising fifteen to twenty feet perpendicularly, and expanding, as it were, at the same moment, the banks were overflowed with the retrogade current, rapid as a torrent - the boats which before had been left on the sand were now torn from their moorings, and suddenly driven up a little creek, at the mouth of which they laid, to the distance in some instances, of nearly a quarter of a mile. The river falling immediately, as rapid as it had risen, receded in its banks again with such violence, that it took with it whole groves of young cotton-wood trees, which ledged its borders. They were broken off which such regularity, in some instances, that persons who had not witnessed the fact, would be difficultly persuaded, that is has not been the work of art. A great many fish were left on the banks, being unable to keep pace with the water. The river was literally covered with the wrecks of boats, and 'tis said that one was wrecked in which there was a lady and six children, all of whom were lost.

In all the hard shocks mentioned, the earth was horribly torn to pieces - the surface of hundreds of acres, was, from time to time, covered over, in various depths, by the sand which issued from the fissures, which were made in great numbers all over this country, some of which closed up immediately after they had vomited forth their sand and water, which it must be remarked, was the matter generally thrown up. In some places, however, there was a substance somewhat resembling coal, or impure stone coal, thrown up with the sand. It is impossible to say what the depths of the fissures or irregular breaks were; we have reason to believe that some of them are very deep.

The site of this town was evidently settled down at least fifteen feet, and not more than a half a mile below the town there does not appear to be any alteration on the bank of the river, but back from the river a small distance, the numerous large ponds or lakes, as they are called, which covered a great part of the country were nearly dried up. The beds of some of them are elevated above their former banks several feet, producing an alteration of ten, fifteen to twenty feet, from their original state. And lately it has been discovered that a lake was formed on the opposite side of the Mississippi, in the Indian country, upwards of one hundred miles in length, and from one to six miles in width, of the depth of ten to fifty feet. It has communication with the river at both ends, and it is conjectured that it will not be many years before the principal part, if not the whole of the Mississippi, will pass that way.

We were constrained by the fear of our houses falling to live twelve or eighteen months, after the first shocks, in little light camps made of boards; but we gradually became callous, and returned to our houses again. Most of those who fled from the country in the time of the hard shocks have since returned home. We have, since the commencement in 1811, and still continue to feel, slight shocks occasionally. It is seldom indeed that we are more than a week without feeling one, and sometimes three of four in a day. There were two this winter past much harder than we had felt them for two years before; but since then they appear to be lighter than they have ever been, and we begin to hope that ere long they will entirely cease.

I have now, sir, finished my promised description of the earthquake - imperfect it is true, but just as it occurred to my memory; many of, and most of the truly awful scenes, having occurred three or four years ago. They of course are not related with that precision which would entitle it to the character of a full and accurate picture. But such as it is, it is given with pleasure - in the full confidence that it is given to a friend. And now, sir, wishing you all good, I must bid you adieu.

Your humble servant, Eliza Bryan

There is one circumstance which I think worthy of remark. This country was formerly subject to very hard thunder; but for more than twelve months before the commencement of the earthquake there was none at all, and but very little since, a great part of which resembles subterraneous thunder. The shocks still continue, but are growing more light, and less frequent. -E.B.

-- JS (, January 27, 2000.

Louisville, KY is about 300 miles from the New Madrid fault. This account will give you some idea of how a quake of that severity would be different than most other areas of the world.


This account of the New Madrid Earthquake was recorded by George Heinrich Crist, resisiding at the time in the north-central Kentucky county of Nelson, near the present location of Louisville. It was submitted by Floyd Creasey - 4th tier great-grandchild to author, now a Texas resident.

16 December 1811

"There was a great shaking of the earth this morning. Tables and chairs turned over and knocked around - all of us knocked out of bed. The roar I thught would leave us deaf if we lived. It was not a storm. when you could hear, all you cold hear was screams from people and animals. It was the worst thing that I have ever wittnesed. It was still dark and you could not see nothng. I thought the shaking and the loud roaring sound would never stop. You could not hold onto nothing neither man or woman was strong enough - the shaking would knock you lose like knocking hicror nuts out of a tree. I don't know how we lived through it. None of us was killed - we was all banged up and some of us knocked out for awile and blood was every where. When it got day break you could see the damage done all around. We still had our home it was some damage. Some people that the home was not built to strong did not. We will have to hunt our animals. Every body is scared to death. we still do not know if anybody was killed. I made my mind to one thing. If this earth quake or what ever it was did not happen in the Territory of Indiana then me and my family is moving to Pigeon Roost as soon as I can get things together.

23 January 1812

"What are we gonna do? You cannot fight it cause you do not know how. It is not something that you can see. In a storm you can see the sky and it shows dark clouds and you know that you might get strong winds but this you can not see anything but a house that just lays in a pile on the ground - not scattered around and trees that just falls over with the roots still on it. The earth quake or what ever it is come again today. It was as bad or worse than the one in December. We lost our Amandy Jane in this one - a log fell on her. We will bury her upon the hill under a clump of trees where Besys Ma and Pa is buried. A lot of people thinks that the devil has come here. Some thinks that this is the beginning of the world coming to a end.

8 Febuary 1812

"If we do not get away from here the ground is going to eat us alive. We had another one of them earth quakes yesterdy and today the ground still shakes at times. We are all about to go crazy - from pain and fright. We can not do anything until we can find our animals or get some more. We have not found enough to pull he wagons.

20 March 1812

"I do not know if our minds have got bad or what. But everybody says it. I swear you can still feel the ground move and shake some. We still have not found enough animals to pull the wagons and you can not find any to buy or trade.

14 April 1813

"We lived to make it to Pigeon Roost. We did not lose any lives but we had aplenty troubles. As much as I love my place in Kentucy - I never want to go back. From December to April no man - woman or animal if they could talk would dare to believe what we lived through. From what people say it was not that bad here - They felt the ground move and shake but it did not destroy cabins and trees like it did in Kentucky. I guess that things was as bad here but at least they could see the enemy. on 3 September 1812 the Shawnees that William thought was friendly went crazy and them savages killed twenty four people...."

-- JS (, January 27, 2000.

Of course, like most other posts here, has NOTHING whatsoever to do with Y2K.............

This forum has become a place for doomers to whine about everything and anything......why not start a thread to discuss your personal problems would fit in well with the rest of this crap.

I'll start.......Today I got a bit of a cramp in my foot when I was walking......boy, was it 'bout you?

-- Craig (, January 27, 2000.


Get a f**king life..

If you don't like how conversations wander here, or understand why that happens, then go away.. real simple...

Y2K is only one of many things that get discussed here, despite the purists, but if I recall correctly from your posts, even if someone stays "on track" you still put them down...

You don't like my life, or the others that choose to stay here till it's over, get your f**king own...

-- Carl (, January 28, 2000.

Here is another New Madrid Fact Sheet. I am not going near this place. I was in Union Square in San Francisco the day of Loma Prieta (sp?) and in Southern California the day of Northridge. With that kind of luck, do you blame me for avoiding New Madrid?

-- Sharon L (, January 28, 2000.

From: Y2K, ` la Carte by Dancr (pic), near Monterey, California

Sharon, quakes only get worse the longer the time between shakes. Please, go to New Madrid now so they can have their quake and get it over with.

-- Dancr (addy.available@my.webpage), January 28, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ