When you think about earthquakes, it’s likely you envision the West Coast—specifically in California. It’s no wonder—thanks to the San Andreas Fault, both California and Nevada experience the most earthquakes every year in the lower 48 states.
And, of course, we are thinking about Anchorage, Alaska that suffered heavy damage in November of 2018 with a 7.0 magnitude quake and since has experienced over 6,100 aftershocks!
According to Almanac.com, over 300,000 earthquakes have been recorded in California and Nevada alone since 1836, including 10 of the 15 largest earthquakes in the United States.
If you live on the West Coast, you’re bound to experience an earthquake (typically minor ones) from time to time.
But what about the rest of the United States? Of course, there’s Alaska too as we were all recently reminded. But we’ll leave that for another Survival Scout.
You’re not susceptible to earthquakes if you live in the Midwest or on the East Coast, right?
While we don’t hear about many earthquakes in the middle of the country, the New Madrid Fault Line has caused substantial seismic disasters in the Midwest. And it’s likely within the next century that we will experience another earthquake event due to the way the tectonic plates are shifting.
What do you need to know about the New Madrid Fault Line, and how do you prepare for such a major natural disaster? Keep reading, and let’s run through a few things.
The History of the New Madrid Seismic Zone
The New Madrid Seismic Zone (also known as the New Madrid Fault Line) is located in the Midwest region of the United States. Due to its location, any seismic activity from this fault line could affect more than 15 million people in over eight states, including…
It’s estimated that the first major New Madrid Fault Line earthquake occurred nearly 600 million years ago while the United States tried to rip itself in half between Memphis and St. Louis. Thankfully, no one lived in those areas at the time.
The most notable New Madrid Fault Line earthquake that happened while the United States was populated occurred 206 years ago. A historic article from Forbes tells us that, during this time, the earthquake impacted most of the eastern half of the United States. It was December 16, 1811.
US citizens felt the quake over a million square miles away. It was so noticeable that it startled President Madison in the White House over 900 miles away and rang church bells in Boston 1,300 miles away. Closer to the fault line, the Mississippi River started flowing backward, and brand-new waterfalls were formed.
Sadly, the quake completely destroyed the town of New Madrid, Missouri; swallowed people whole; and activated geysers.
New-madrid.mo.us reports that, after that initial earthquake...
“More than 2,000 earthquakes occurred in five months, and people discovered that most of the crevices opening up during an earthquake ran from north to south. When the earth began moving, they would chop down trees in an east-west direction and hold on using the tree as a bridge."
Two major New Madrid Fault Line earthquakes occurred shortly after that historic event in 1811. The second one hit on January 23, and the third one took place on February 7 of 1812.
According to the Smithsonian magazine, each New Madrid earthquake had a magnitude of 7.5 or greater, making the earthquakes three of the most powerful quakes in the continental United States and shaking an area ten times larger than that affected by the magnitude-7.8 San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
The Current State of the New Madrid Fault Line
Many years have passed since any damaging earthquake activity has occurred on the New Madrid Fault Line, and, thankfully, no one has been harmed due to an earthquake since.
Does that mean we are out of the woods?
Dr. Robert Herrmann, a professor of geophysics in St. Louis University’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, states that...
“We cannot predict earthquakes. We expect them to happen in the future, with smaller ones being more common than the rare large ones. (But) there were no direct predictions. Rather, an estimate of likelihood.”
Despite having incredible technology that monitors earthquake activity, there’s simply no way of predicting exactly when one will happen (as folks in Alaska clearly understand). It’s obvious that, due to the tectonic activity near the fault line, an earthquake will occur again—and it’s likely to be incredibly powerful.
But we do not know whether it will happen tomorrow or a 100 years from now.
Herrmann goes on to say that…
“The geologic record is really the strongest piece of evidence we have to remain concerned about earthquakes in the New Madrid region. Studying remnants of the 1811 quake, scientists say they have determined that this region suffered similar powerful upheavals in about 2350 B.C., 900 A.D. and again in about 1450. To some, this indicates that this area has a history of massive earthquakes and that we’re already 200 years out from the last one.”
The New Madrid Fault Line is still alive and well, and now millions of people live on top of it and are susceptible to the destruction that would occur due to another quake.
For this reason, if you live within a few hundred miles of the fault line, whether in California, Washington, or Missouri, it’s important to equip yourself with basic earthquake preparedness skills to help you stay safe in the event of an emergency.
Basic Earthquake Preparedness Skills
It’s not often we have to think about what to do in the event of an earthquake—especially for those who live in the Midwest or East Coast. But the reality is that an earthquake can occur just about anywhere across the United States.
This is why it’s so important to stay prepared—no matter where you live.
Here’s a quick refresher on how everyone should prepare in the event of an earthquake.
Teach Your Kids Earthquake Safety Drills
Most kids are taught in school how to stop, drop, and roll in the event of a fire. Yet not many know what to do in the event of an earthquake.
If an earthquake were to occur, the Red Cross advises that kids and adults learn how to drop, cover, and hold on. Dropping to the floor will keep you from getting knocked off your feet. Covering yourself with a sturdy piece of furniture or door frame will help protect you from debris that fall, and holding on will ensure you stay safe and secure.
Once the earthquake stops, safely move yourself away from any unstable structures, light posts, electrical wires, fixtures, gas tanks, etc.
Expect and Prepare for Potential Aftershocks
It’s not uncommon for a second rattling to occur after an initial earthquake. In the case of the New Madrid earthquake of 1811, an aftershock measuring 7.4 struck the next day. Be sure to stay calm, and remain in your secure location for at least 15 minutes after the earthquake passes.
When it’s safe to move, vacate the building you are in, and stay away from buildings or other unstable structures.
Be aware that aftershocks can still occur days, weeks, or even months after an earthquake. Assess your home to make sure it’s safe to stay in before you move back.
Prepare for Power Outages
Earthquakes often knock down power lines and can even leave entire cities without electricity for days or weeks. If you live near the New Madrid Fault Line—or any other earthquake-prone area—make sure you always have extra power sources on hand.
We recommend lanterns with batteries as opposed to candles as lanterns are more safe in the event of an aftershock. Solar-powered or hand-cranked devices like this 4-in-1 Emergency Solar Flashlight & AM/FM/Weather Radio w/ Hand Crank are best. Having a battery- or solar-powered cell phone charger and radio is always a great idea.
Equip Yourself with Food and Water
Earthquakes are incredibly destructive. If one occurs near you, it's likely that, aside from taking out the electricity, it could crumble grocery stores and water-purifying plants.
For this reason, we firmly believe that everyone should keep a minimum of three months of nonperishable food and a gravity-powered water filtration system in the home. Investing in a water purifier will ensure that you can continue to have safe drinking water, no matter how long you are without access to a clean water source.
Equip Yourself for Proper Home Cleanup
Home destruction is bound to occur after a sizable earthquake.
Having a few tools on hand to make quick repairs to your home is important. Even more essential is having a cleanup kit that will help you pick up any sort of chemicals (such as gasoline or other flammable liquids) in your home. It’s best that you have protective clothing on hand, including gloves, boots, jeans, and long-sleeved shirts.
As for cleaning supplies...carpet cleaners, buckets, hoses, and shop vacs are helpful while cleaning up large messes.
Uncertainty is the reason we must always stay prepared. After all, most of us don’t go though our daily life expecting something as devastating as an earthquake to shake up our lives and turn our world upside down.
It is my hope that you will use the information provided to ensure both you and your family stay safe, no matter what happens in the future.
Please stay safe and alert. And prepared.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply