Scientists: Major Earthquake Could Strike Midwest - "It's not a matter of if it will happen, but when,"

Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Thu, 04/22/2010 - 19:27.
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) — Two years after a 5.2 magnitude quake rattled the Hoosier State and much of the Midwest, experts say a stronger quake is likely in the future.
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The epicenter of the 2008 quake was centered below New Salem, Ill, about 40 miles north of Evansville, along the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone, an earthquake prone area neighboring the more well known New Madrid seismic zone in the Mississippi River Valley.

Those two regions put several Midwestern states, including Indiana, at risk for major earthquakes, scientists say.

"It's not a matter of if it will happen, but when," explained Dr. Lawrence Weidman, Director of Environmental Science and Professor of Biology at the University of Saint Francis.

In 1811 and 1812, a series of four earthquakes with magnitudes ranging from 7.8 to 8.2, among the strongest ever to shake North America, occurred along the New Madrid, leveling the town it was named after. The event reportedly rung church bells in Boston.

"It was a heck of a quake," said Weidman.

Scientists have tracked thousands of tremors along the fault line since the 1800's, most of them too small to feel. But experts say our luck may be running out.

"We're over due." says Bernie Beier, For Wayne, Allen County Homeland Security Director.

Deep beneath Indiana, immense pressures are squeezing layers of rock and great pressures are building up. Some day, experts contend, the rock will crumble under the pressure, causing an earthquake, or a series of them, that could exceed magnitude 7.0, enough force to cause serious damage.

"Overpasses would collapse highways would fissure, buildings shaken, damage to property as far north as northern Indiana and southern Michigan," said Beier.

Indeed, buildings and infrastructure in the Midwest are not designed to handle the stresses that earthquakes can cause. In addition, the geography allows seismic waves to travel further than they would in other earthquake prone areas like southern California.

Experts say southwestern Indiana around Evansville would likely suffer the most damage, but if it's big enough, the seismic waves could travel state wide, rocking a population unaccustomed to temblors.

The physical damage could be immense, but likely not as costly as the economic damage, with losses projected to be in the billions. Oil and gas pipelines, major roadways and manufacturing plants could be damaged or destroyed. Emergency crews would find it difficult to navigate broken roads and hospitals could be overwhelmed with casualties.

Emergency authorities say personal preparedness is essential to making it through any disaster.

"We all want to say we're prepared, we're ready give me the thumbs up, but I think that would give a false sense of security to the public. It's not just the government's responsibility, it's the public responsibility, business' responsibility," said Beier.

The Department of Homeland security maintains a website which shows families how to prepare for any contingency. It suggests families keep a kit stocked with enough supplies to live "off the grid" for at least 72 hours, or until help arrives.

The kit should include

 

  • emergency water
  • emergency food
  • extra clothes
  • first aid supplies
  • medications
  • pet care items
  • flashlights and batteries
  • lists of contacts and identification documents
  • maps of the area
  • families should also have a plan, official suggest.

Families should plan for possible evacuations, and find friends or family members in other cities that could take them in temporarily.

Businesses are encouraged to plan for any eventuality by examining supply chains and other needs. Recommendations also include preparing a written emergency plan and providing assistance and resources to authorities if possible through the use of supply and communications networks.

April 22, 2010
By Brien McElhatten
Indiana's NewsCenter

http://www.indianasnewscenter.com/news/local/91754854.html

 

 

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