Recent Earthquakes Threaten New Madrid Fault?
With several large earthquakes rocking the "Ring of Fire" in the Pacific, a few of our viewers have been concerned that this will impact the New Madrid fault or cause it to shift. While this is a valid concern, the two are not directly linked. Since the New Madrid fault zone network is sub-continental, it is not linked to the Pacific Rim (like those along the West Coast of California, or Asian countries). Adding to that, the New Madrid fault zone is composed of different kinds of faults than those in California.
The Center for Earthquake Research and Information describes it as this: "The New Madrid fault system, or the New Madrid seismic zone, is a series of faults beneath the continental crust in a weak spot known as the Reelfoot Rift. It cannot be seen on the surface. The fault system extends 150 miles southward from Cairo, Illinois through New Madrid and Caruthersville, Missouri, down through Blytheville, Arkansas to Marked Tree, Arkansas. It dips into Kentucky near Fulton and into Tennessee near Reelfoot Lake, and extends southeast to Dyersburg, Tennessee. It crosses five state lines, and crosses the Mississippi River in at least three places."
The last major earthquakes to rumble the New Madrid zone were in 1811-1812, 1843, and 1895. Since then thousands of smaller earthquakes, 2.0 or less, have kept the fault active. These smaller earthquakes are not enough from keeping a bigger one from happening and scientists believe that a magnitude 6.0 or greater is possible within our children's lifetime.
Earthquakes of great magnitude are nearly impossible to predict. As a resident living in this "danger zone", I can only urge everyone living here with me to BE PREPARED. Unlike an ice storm or severe weather event, we would have NO warning to prepare for a natural disaster like this one. Like a smoke detector or weather radio, an emergency preparedness kit is ESSENTIAL to have and WILL be needed in the event a large magnitude earthquake centered anywhere on the New Madrid fault zone.
Because the New Madrid fault lies beneath a continental plate, it will "radiate" for hundreds of miles and cause damage much more widespread/severe than the same size earthquake in California. Memphis and St. Louis would suffer moderate to major structural damage. With our local towns right in the middle...think of what your impact would be.
Here is my motivation for keeping emergency supplies and survival necessities. I live in a rural area in Graves County. Surrounding my area are several small, old bridges crossing the tributaries of the Clarks River. Those bridges would collapse. I would be trapped in my community for several days, if not weeks. If even one of those bridges held up, I still have to cross overpasses and major bridges over the Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio, or Mississippi Rivers to make my way out of the region...not to mention the area roads that will be susceptible to buckling and breaking along the way. My thoughts may seem a little doom and gloom for some of you but think about it!! All very plausible if the New Madrid fault were to sustain a large magnitude earthquake.
While I try to remain positive and not think of the worst, I want to be prepared in the event my family and neighbors need help to live several days without outside help. This is a message that the Red Cross and FEMA have been trying to communicate for years and years. While those agencies would be the first to help and respond to such a disaster, they too would take a serious hit. Their families and offices would also be impacted. We would need to rely on outside help and that help may take days to reach our homes.
I am not saying you need to go out and spend several hundred dollars today to be fully prepared. What am I asking? I am hoping that each of you who read this will gather supplies with each trip to the grocery store, hardware store, or online. Preparing for this sort of disaster will also get you ready for anything!...Ice storms, severe weather, snow storms, long-term power outages.
For more help gathering supplies or making a preparedness kit, use the following links:
Make this a family affair. Children are great at helping make plans and taking on certain assigned tasks. Let them help you and it may cut down on any stress inflicted on them during disaster. Even if you only perform this once, run a practice drill like your children do at school. It is already familiar to them and will also make for less chaos when real action needs to be taken.
Thank you to all who read and respond to this by becoming more prepared. I welcome your thoughts and opinions or even questions concerning this post. Aside from being a Meteorologist, I am also a mother, wife, daughter, neighbor, and member of this community. I encourage everyone (including my family and neighbors) to be prepared so that we can more easily help ourselves and each other if a natural disaster strikes our region.