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Buried in a Wall Street Journal article from about a week ago was a startling piece of information. According to a Wal-Mart executive, Wal-Mart “participated in an exercise to prepare for an earthquake on the New Madrid fault line” earlier this summer. And officials at the U.S. Geological Survey have just released a report which indicates that they believe that the New Madrid fault zone has the “potential for larger and more powerful quakes than previously thought“. So should we be concerned? Do they know something that we don’t? The USGS also says that the frequency of earthquakes in the central and eastern portions of the United States has quintupled over the past 30 years, and that significant earthquakes have started popping up in areas of the country that were once extremely quiet. Along with the new report, the USGS released the following map… (Click on link, above, to see map and the rest of the article)


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 27th, 2014 07:52 am (UTC)
Out here in California - and especially up where I live, near a triple-junction of tectonic plates - we like getting lots of little quakes fairly often. When things are too quiet for a long period, it makes us worry that pressure is building up for a really big one (7+). We'd much rather have lots of little shakers releasing pressure gradually than have it go all at once.

That being said, the New Madrid fault complex is the really the most dangerous one in the whole continental US. The San Andreas Fault here gets all the press, but when the New Madrid goes, it goes bigtime, wreaking destruction for a thousand-plus mile radius. That sucker will bring down buildings all the way up in New England when its time inevitably comes...

Edited at 2014-07-27 07:53 am (UTC)
Jul. 27th, 2014 11:17 pm (UTC)
You're quite right. I was born in Pasadena, California, lived in San Gabriel, CA for about 6-1/2 years, then moved to Pasadena, CA. I lived in the Los Angeles Basin until I was 17, when I was pt in a foster home in Ventura County. So I'm very familiar with earthquakes. I moved from Southern California to Seattle in 1987, when I was 42. In SoCal, as you point out, lots of little quakes are actually a good thing, taking tension off the really dangerous faults and helping to prevent great big quakes. In Seattle, the opposite situation holds: this is an area of heavy tectonic activity, both volcanic and groundsharking, but the earthquakes don't happen all that often. And when one does let loose, it can be anywhere from a 6.9 quake to a 9.5 quake (the latter come along every few centuries).

But New Madrid has them all beat. Apparently the one that let go there in 1812 was felt all the way to the West Coast, according to histories preserved by native American peoles there and testing by scientists. That's like a 10-point plus quake, the kind that cracks tectonic plates as big as the North American plate. (The Mississippi River Valley apparently lies above a long crack in the North American plate going from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, at New Orleans, caused by horrific quakes in that region over a period of many millennia.) Whenever it lets go again, it will flatten buildings for hundreds of miles around and cause damage in them as far away as both coasts. The price of a high-tech, heavily built-up civilization is widespread disastser when such a quake happens.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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