The gusher relieves enough pressure on surrounding rocks and tectonic plates that there is a sudden massive earthquake affecting the New Madrid Fault. This in turn collapses the cavity and stops the gusher. That's the good news.
Unfortunately, lots of people are dead or injured.
On the face of it, this scenario looks like something out of a horror movie screenwriter's folio of nightmares.
However, it does have legs.
There have been major earthquakes on the New Madrid Fault in the past.
"Take a green stick and start bending it. At first, not much happens. Then, just before the stick breaks, you hear small pops and cracks coming from inside.
"That's how Dr. Otto Nuttli of St. Louis University describes what is happening in the New Madrid earthquake zone. Every other day or so, the land underneath the area where Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Indiana meet pops and cracks just a little.
"But, the scientist said, the pressure is building for a break -- a major earthquake that could conceivably devastate much of the nation's midsection, causing thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in damages.
"At 2 a.m. on Dec. 16, 1811, the ground underneath the tiny town of New Madrid, Mo., moved, and that movement produced the greatest earthquake in the history of the United States. Later estimates have placed the magnitude of the quake as high as 8.7 on the Richter scale. "Rapids rose in the Mississippi River, which appeared to run backward for a while. Islands in the river sank from view. Reelfoot Lake was formed in Tennessee." (Published June 10, 1984 By Andy Mead, Herald-Leader Staff Writer, ST. LOUIS).
That was written 26 years ago. Coincidentally, or not, another study commissioned by FEMA was released this week. "A study commissioned by (FEMA) indicates that a major earthquake on the New Madrid fault would kill 3,500 people and leave millions homeless. It found that more than 80,000 people would be injured by a 7.7-magnitude quake...."
How does this tie in to the Gulf of Mexico? It does so via the work of a retired geologist-geophysicist, Jack M. Reed.
"(He) studied the Gulf and the New Madrid Fault for something like 40 years (and) believes the origin of the earthquakes lies beneath the Gulf of Mexico.
"(He also) says the accepted theory of a quiet geologic
evolution of the Gulf of Mexico Basin is fundamentally flawed and needs to be revised."
Says Reed:- " ... if you want waterfront property you should buy land around Indianapolis. In a couple of million years this acreage could be overlooking the Strait of America that separates western (and) eastern America!"
Not to make light of any of this, if the New Madrid Fault does have an earthquake shortly, perhaps you won't need to wait a couple of million years for waterfront property in
Indianapolis. The water might come to you. Complete with an oily sheen.
"Other estimates from the report include:
• 715,000 buildings damaged
• 7 million people homeless
• 2.6 million households without power
• $300 Billion economic impact
"The two towns most at risk because of their proximity to the fault zone are St. Louis, and Memphis, though towns in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas and Alabama will also see damage, according to the report."
If Reed is correct and such earthquakes have their beginnings in the Gulf of Mexico, then it seems to be within the realms of possibility that a big earthquake could happen much sooner than anyone has expected. Then again, they always do catch us by surprise, no matter where they occur.
Moreover, human nature being what it is, it is very unlikely that this report will spur many people into taking evasive action - such as leaving for a safer place to live.