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New Madrid Earthquake

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    THE NEW MADRID EARTHQUAKE OF 1812 Some of the most severe earthquakes in the United States occurred not on the Pacific Coast but in the middle of the continent in southeastern Missouri near the town of New Madrid. There are many things that were unusual about the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812. The location is a surprise, the damage was catastrophic but we did learn from it. Just after 2 o’clock AM of December 16, 1811, the Mississippi River valley was hit by an earthquake so strong that it awakened people in cities as distant at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Norfolk, Virginia. Page) This shock started what must have been the most frightening sequence of earthquakes ever to occur in the United States. The strong shaking continued through March 1812 and aftershocks strong enough to be felt occurred through the year 1817. The initial earthquake of December 16 was followed by two other principal shocks, one on January 23, 1812, and the other on February 7, 1812. (Nuttli) No other earthquakes have lasted so long or produced so much evidence of damage as the New Madrid earthquakes.

    Three of the earthquakes are on the list of America’s top earthquakes: the first one on December 16, 1811, a magnitude of 8. 1 on the Richter scale; the second on January 23, 1812, at 7. 8; and the third on February 7, 1812, at as much as 8. (Page) The results of these earthquakes was devastating. Trees were up rooted and looked to be tossed around like toothpicks. There was wide spread damage extending from St. Louis to all the way to Pennsylvania where supposedly the Liberty bell rang from the strong quakes. Nuttli) Thirty miles south, in the river town of what is today Caruthersville, Missouri, all twenty houses were destroyed, and the surrounding land was rendered almost unrecognizable. The ground rolled in several-foot-high waves until they burst, hurling up geysers of water, sand, and a charcoal-like substance. Giant fissures swallowed buildings, along with anyone inside. Some land rose, and other land sank to become inundated with water as rivers changed their course to fill the hollows. Huge chunks of riverbank collapsed into the Mississippi, and an island rose, blocking the current from running downstream.

    As fissures opened in the riverbed and the banks collapsed, the water was forced to run backward, or upstream, until the temporary island was washed away. Most accounts said it lasted a few minutes, while others said it lasted up to three days. (Hendricks) There were not many deaths only because it was so early in history when American was just starting to migrate west so most of the area had a some population. Surprisingly, we did learn a lot from these earthquakes. It showed us that the midwest is not earthquake free because its not on the edge of a tectonic plate like California.

    We now know there is a possibility of another big earthquake happening in the New Madrid fault zone which would devastate the whole midwest and cause massive economic problems. Also we learned aftershocks can last for a sustained time and still be quite powerful. Overall, the New Madrid earthquake was the largest ever recorded in the US since the invention of the seismograph. It was so powerful it made rivers change direction, the ground crack and shake so hard to made forests of trees uprooted and tossed around.

    We did learn from it though and now we know the midwest really isn’t as safe from nature disasters as we once assumed. ? WORKS CITED 1. Page, Jake. “The New Madrid Earthquakes. ” The New Madrid Earthquakes. San Jose Universty, 6 Nov. 2009. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. . Nuttli, Otto. “Historic Earthquakes. ” Historic Earthquakes. USGS, 1 Nov. 2012. Web. 21 Mar. 2013. . Hendricks, Nancy. “New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812 – Encyclopedia of Arkansas. ” New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812 – Encyclopedia of Arkansas. The Central Arkansas Libray System, 16 Mar. 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. .

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    New Madrid Earthquake. (2016, Nov 13). Retrieved from

    Frequently Asked Questions

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    How likely is a New Madrid seismic earthquake?
    Some geologists say there is a 90 percent chance that earthquakes of magnitude 6 to 7 will strike the region in the next 50 years, causing extensive damage and injury -- especially in now heavily populated urban areas such as St. Louis and Memphis, which are built along the Mississippi on unstable mud banks.
    Is the New Madrid Fault still active?
    The zone is active, averaging more than 200 measured seismic events per year. The New Madrid Fault extends approximately 120 miles southward from the area of Charleston, Missouri, and Cairo, Illinois, through Mew Madrid and Caruthersville, following Interstate 55 to Blytheville, then to Marked Tree Arkansas.
    What would happen if the New Madrid earthquake occurred today?
    Over 15,000 people would be killed. An additional 120,000 would be displaced. Nearly 200 schools and over 100 fire stations would be damaged; 37 hospitals and 67 police stations would be inoperable the day after the earthquake in the state of Missouri.
    When was the last earthquake on the New Madrid Fault?
    When was the last earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone? According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the last large earthquake in the New Madrid — a magnitude-6.7 — took place around Charleston, Missouri, on Oct. 31, 1895.

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