New Madrid quivers

January 25, 2010
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Somehow, it isn’t particularly reassuring when Foreign Policy amid its Haiti coverage counts the New Madrid fault near Missouri’s bootheel as one of the world’s “little-noticed hot seismic hot spots across the globe.”

The New Madrid shook Boston when it last rumbled in 1812. It had three times the power of the 1906 San Francisco quake.

All four other hot spots mentioned by the magazine are outside the United States. For the rundown, click here.

New Madrid would wreak havoc on Memphis and St. Louis, and Indianapolis, even though it’s a couple of hundred miles away, wouldn’t escape harm in a big flare-up.

In the Midwest, it’s easy to kick the can ahead on earthquake preparation. Quakes always happen someplace else—or so it seems.

What are your feelings about nearly 200 years of silence out of New Madrid? Has your workplace ever discussed what do to in a quake?


  • Not quite accurate
    Strictly speaking, the New Madrid fault has not been silent for 200 years. There was a quake felt in Indianapolis in the late-80s/early-90s. No damage in this area but I don't know about closer to the fault line.
    • I pay attention
      I am probably one of the few people I know in Indianapolis with earthquake insurance for just this reason! Our flat land would make this jolt resonate far and wide.
    • Tremors
      The New Madrid fault has quaked at least twice in my lifetime, once in the mid-1970s and again in late 1980s. It was fresh enough in my mind that when I bought this house, I took out earthquake insurance, which I still have today.
    • Small quakes
      I definitely remember feeling two different minor quakes in Indy in the 70s and 80s. And wasn't that another New Madrid rumble that hit Evansville last year? Yes, they were small, but it shows that New Madrid is still moving.
    • Run, DMC!!!
      The last significant quake felt in Indy from the New Madrid was in May, 1987. I was installing a garage door opener in my new home and was nearly tossed from my perch atop a 6-foot ladder. I haven't purchased earthquake insurance because if there is ever another occurrence, I'm sure there will be a well-orchestrated and timely response from our federal government and all will be taken care of.
      • Take it seriously!
        Having been through two major quakes in Los Angeles (one of the reasons I moved back to Indiana), this is an issue that southern Indiana counties need to take especially seriously. Although I understand that the cycle for the next major New Madrid shaker isn't for another 20+ years, those "cycles" are just estimates. If a future NM quake was at the level reported by eyewitnesses in the 1800s (who reported sand geysers and reverse movement of the Mississippi River), the loss or major damage to Interstate and railroad bridges alone would create economic chaos at heretofore unexperienced levels. Preparation and awareness is key!
      • How soon we forget
        Don't forget we got a rattling 2 or 3 years ago in the early morning in the Indianapolis/Central Indiana region. The New Madrid is probably like the rest in that the pressures have to release eventually in a big way. Hopefully that will not be devasting.
      • Hold on a second
        I'm not an expert but this stuff fascinates me and I've done some reading over the years.

        The April 2008 earthquake came from the Wabash Valley Fault, not the New Madrid Fault. There is research suggesting that the New Madrid Zone may actually be "shutting down". This could lead to increased activity in other faults. Some researchers even suggest that Wabash Valley could be more dangerous.

        Here's a couple of articles -

        At work, we have NEVER discussed earthquake preparedness, except to say it's a low risk event. Since I work for one of the hospital systems here in Indy you'd think we would. I can envision a scenario where a major event happens on either New Madrid or Wabash Valley and we'd all be in big trouble. Our structures are not built to withstand any significant force (maybe I'd better rethink this 1920's era apartment I live in) and I'd bet most people and businesses have neither a personal or institutional plan.

        Let's hope it doesn't ever happen.
      • Earthquakes
        I lived in San Fran during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 89 and the devastation and resulting fires are terrors I will never forget. I had left work early to go home and watch the World Series game at Candlestick. The quake hit as our electric bus was moving along California Street and I walked several miles to get home. Our four story apartment building crumpled all along the first floor; we used ladders to get up to the second floor to shut off the gas to our building. The streets were impassable due to bricks and debris that exploded from the fronts of the buildings. Few people here in the midwest realize what an earthquake can do, or how ill-prepared they are. Increased seismic activity around the globe should be a wake-up call, especially when a major fault is overdue for a shift.
      • More than just the New Madrid
        There have been quakes along the New Madrid but there are other, much closer faults. Google the "Fortville Fault." It begins North of Indianapolis. It *supposedly* is inactive. I really believe that seismologists and geologist do not 100 percent know. Good Luck!
      • Wrong fault line
        That was the Wabash Valley fault line that shook the midwest last year. And it occurned just outside of Mt. Carmel, Illinois. I was living there and remember it very well! The WV fault line is much more active than the NM
      • whats next
        Well,what does all this tell us?With in this week alone. Floods,Mudslides,blizzards,fires,tornados,earthquakes,avalanches,gas explosions.Tells me we all better be ready for the coming of the close of this world we now live in!!
      • Didn't want to hear about New Madrid now!
        Especially after hearing about the major flooding in Indonesia and the amount of earthquakes in the area. If the plate under Indonesia sinks then you will be hearing more from the New Madrid fault! At that point it will be VERY bad!
      • 1969 quake
        Our family of 6 remembers a quake felt downtown Indianapolis on a Saturday afternoon the summer of 1969.
        It was our last day to visit with our friends before we moved to California. There were about 250 people sitting quietly during a presentation and we felt the slight shaking of our seats. Had we been milling about, we might have missed it. Those present were abuzz about it afterwards.

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