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The Great New Madrid Earthquake

 
susano
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11/20/2006 05:00 AM
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The Great New Madrid Earthquake
The Great New Madrid Earthquakes

Whenever most people think of an earthquake in the United States, they think of the one that hit San Francisco in 1906, or they think of the famous San Andreas Fault that causes such a stir in the media. But few people outside of the country are aware that the deadliest earthquakes occurred in 1811 and 1812, right here in the heart of the American Midwest along the Mississippi River. The Great New Madrid Earthquakes were one of the most extraordinary geologic events in recorded history and remains as one of the most violent earthquakes that occurred anywhere in the world.

It all started at precisely 2:30 a.m., December 16, 1811. ThatÕs when the town of Big Prairie, in the Mississippi River flood plain region located in the state of Arkansas, ceased to exist. The pioneer settlers of the village ran for their lives as the town sank and quickly became a part of the river. The quake that caused the destruction is believed to have been about 8.0 on the Richter Scale. It completely devastated the entire region. The mighty Mississippi churned into a virtual maelstrom as mile after mile of river banks collapsed. Two entire islands disappeared, one inhabited by a band of river pirates, who all perished in a moment of fearsome justice.

About 50 miles north of Big Prairie was the town of Little Prairie in the present day state of Missouri. The same quake shook the residents of the community, who grabbed their children and ran into the cold winter night, watching their primitive log homes creak and crack, ashes and coals from the fireplaces catching the timbers on fire and the town went up in flames. As they sifted through the rubble in the early morning hours, a second great shock hit around 8 a.m. that caused the ground to heave and crack. Fissures opened and slammed shut, exploding with spewing water and blasting carbonized wood high into the air. Survivors claimed the ground rolled in waves. An enormous crater developed outside where the town once stood on level ground while sprawling crevasses passed beneath trees, splitting them upward from the roots.

As the people stared down into the growing crater, they saw the dark, viscous fluids that gurgled as brimstone shot into the air. They believed it was the end of the world.

It was in fact, only the beginning of their ordeal. Amidst their terror, a third shock hit. The soil itself began to boil while water oozed upward and began to fill the whole region as the land sank and the Mississippi began to flood the horizon. Grabbing their children, they ran, then waded, then swam for nearly eight miles, battling coyotes, snakes and other wildlife that was forced to swim. They finally reached high ground near present day Hayti (pronounced hay-tie), Missouri.

Tremors continued. They became more numerous and stronger as the days and weeks passed until January 7, 1812, when another, though less powerful quake hit the area. Then at 9 a.m. on January 23rd, a massive 8.4 magnitude quake hit the region with renewed vengeance. The town of Point Pleasant in the state of Illinois collapsed into the Mississippi, though no one died as the residents had evacuated just a few days earlier. Sand boils created a natural dam across what was Reelfoot Creek in the state of Tennessee, creating what is a favorite camping and fishing area today known as Reelfoot Lake. Tremors continued uninterrupted day and night. By February 5, 1812, one resident noted the earth, "twitched and jerked like a side of freshly killed beef."

Then, the big one hit. At nearly 3:30 a.m., February 7, 1812, the most violent earthquake in recorded U.S. history hit the eastern half of the continent. It probably measured over 8.8 on the Richter Scale, or the equivalent of an underground nuclear blast. ItÕs center is believed to have been under what is today an innocent looking rest area along Interstate Highway 55 between the towns of Marston and New Madrid, Missouri. For several hours, the earth shook so violently that the Mississippi River actually ran backward and waterfalls formed and lasted for weeks as the ground heaved in anger. Towering waves were cast over the banks and shattered trees along several thousand acres of shoreline. Riverboats were launched out of the river and onto dry land with an unknown death toll. In the predawn light, one boat was transported upstream, then floated down again, surviving one set of falls and then managed to steer ashore to the cheer of the townsfolk. No one else was so fortunate as 30 other boats that had been moored to the docks were smashed by the waves with total loss of life.

The terrified residents of New Madrid who watched the spectacle said the earth literally swallowed the river in huge chasms which then slammed shut, the water shooting hundreds of feet into the air like fountains.

News traveled fast. Later that morning as the earthquake rippled across the continent, the South Carolina legislature near the Atlantic Ocean prepared for another day in the state capitol when they convened in panic as the building shook. President Madison was jolted out of his bed in Washington, D.C. as the White House trembled. Church bells rang in Boston, Massachusetts nearly 1000 miles from the epicenter and as the weeks passed, reports came from as far away as Cuba and Canada confirming the power of the earthquake.

Aftershocks continued for another six months along the quake zone as folks struggled to rebuild homes and towns. One of the most bizarre reports was from a few pioneer farmers who independently claimed that all during the New Madrid episode that lasted nearly a year, wildlife of all sorts congregated around their homes, possibly seeking refuge and losing their fear of man.

There is of course, much speculation by scientists as to whether or not the central region of the United States is in for a repeat of events as the 1811-12 quakes. Colleges and government at all levels in the region have taken a particular interest in the fault zone that seems to be some sort of stretch mark in the center of the continent -- a hole in the North American tectonic plate system. Unlike the more famous San Andreas Fault zone in far away California, the New Madrid fault has no real beginning or end, no defined region and the rock strata is such that quakes are amplified, explaining the Feb. 7, 1812 quake. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of tiny fault areas, all spreading in different directions, though researchers have recently linked the fault area to the magnetic differences of the igneous rock strata on either side of what is being recognized as a very complex rift that extends as far south as perhaps the Gulf of Mexico, defining the course of the Mississippi River. Some predictions have even gone so far as to say that within our lifetime, the entire region will sink into the Gulf of Mexico, which will extend all the way to the Great Lake region.

While most experts believe the 1811-12 episode may only occur once every 500-3000 years, others caution that the same quakes buried some fault zones that continue to build up dangerous amounts of energy. It is predicted that a 6.0 magnitude earthquake should occur in the area by the year 2025.

Had the 1811-12 quakes occurred today and not then, the devastation would have been so enormous that economists claim the U.S. may not have recovered from such destruction to the surrounding cities and infrastructure and laws have been passed and experts from around the world, most notably Japan, have come to guide state governments and engineers on how to construct earthquake proof skyscrapers and bridges.

Today, as I write this from my own residence hardly 100 miles from the epicenter of the quake zone, we hear almost monthly on the television about the latest tremors. Indeed, the New Madrid area has the most earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains, with tremors at least every 2 minutes, though only a fraction of those can be felt by humans. The 1811-12 quakes are a part of the interesting and troublesome aspect of this region of the country and somewhere in the back of all our minds is the disturbing thought that no one really knows when the next big quake might hit.

To learn more, I suggest researching the subject of the New Madrid earthquake zone by going to the following internet sites: [link to www.hsv.com] or [link to folkworm.ceri.memphis.edu] or [link to www.greatdreams.com]

by

Fred Roe
3rd November 2002

[link to www.tuppenceworth.ie]

damned
susano (OP)

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11/20/2006 05:05 AM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
Now, imagine this hitting the heavily populated Mississippi region today.
REAR VIEW (NLI)
User ID: 150179
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11/20/2006 05:10 AM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
Well, lets see...1811 AD.

I wonder how many states were really states back then? Maybe 18?

Population of the region...about 2,000?




Does anyone have real stats on this one?
susano (OP)

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11/20/2006 05:12 AM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
It must have been "frontier" in those days.
Anonymous Coward
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11/24/2006 08:31 AM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
The Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory (VTSO) operates a digital seismic network with stations in Virginia and southern West Virginia. Along with other southeastern regional seismic networks and the U.S. National Seismic Network (USNSN), VTSO contributes to earthquake monitoring, information dissemination and seismic hazard assessment objectives in the southeastern United States.

Support for VTSO is by the U.S. Geological Survey through the Advanced National Seismic System ANSS. We have also recently received a generous donation of solar panels from BP. This will enable our remote stations to continue to operate through periods of inclimate weather.

VTSO compiles a Southeastern U.S. Earthquake Catalog which can be browsed or downloaded. This catalog contains both historical and recent, instrumentally located, earthquakes in the southeastern U.S. region. Since 1977, the southeastern regional seismic network operators have contributed over 1500 instrumentally located hypocenters and magnitudes to the catalog. Complete phase data and other seismological information for those events are contained in a series of Bulletins compiled by VTSO. The Southeastern U.S. Seismic Networks Bulletins can be also be browsed and downloaded. The instrumentally-located earthquake hypocenters and magnitudes from the SEUSSN bulletins 1-38 (1977-2003) are also contained in the ANSS Composite Earthquake Catalog.
[link to www.geol.vt.edu]
Anonymous Coward
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11/24/2006 09:01 AM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
I was shown years ago that the New Madrid will not go until after a very large quake in California.
Anonymous Coward
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04/18/2008 06:42 AM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
Those who ignore history, are destined to repeat it.
hiding
The Screamer
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04/18/2008 08:29 AM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
And so it begins ...
[link to earthquake.usgs.gov]
scream
Anonymous Coward
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04/18/2008 10:25 AM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
bump
Intimosis
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04/18/2008 10:27 AM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
Cahokia will rise again!

[link to en.wikipedia.org]
Anonymous Coward
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04/18/2008 11:04 AM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
bump
Anonymous Coward
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04/18/2008 12:26 PM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
bump
Riyu
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04/18/2008 02:13 PM
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Re: The Great New Madrid Earthquake
I was shown years ago that the New Madrid will not go until after a very large quake in California.
 Quoting: Anonymous Coward 161828

It is JUST oppositional,First,New Madrid-next,west coast!
EQ will occur at New Madrid along Mississippi river
M8 over EQ on 2008.9.10.11!!Maybe 2008 last half!

US army will pullback from iraq to homeland due to many catastrophies -Big EQ,bridge down,gas explosion,Building implosion,Mine accident,Plant explosion,eruption,hurricane,big flood,severe drought,red dust etc.