News Release 032

February is Earthquake Awareness Month in Missouri

Volume 38-032 (For Immediate Release)
Contact: Hylan Beydler
573-368-2118

ROLLA, MO, JAN. 29, 2010 -- Many Missourians experience small earthquakes weekly. This is especially true in southeast Missouri, and to mark Earthquake Awareness Month in Missouri, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the Missouri Seismic Safety Commission and others are partnering during the month of February to provide critical information to Missourians about earthquakes in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ).

The NMSZ, located in southeastern Missouri, northeastern Arkansas, western Tennessee, western Kentucky and southern Illinois, is the nation's most active seismic zone east of the Rocky Mountains. The fault cuts across the Mississippi River in three places and the Ohio River in two places. More than 200 small earthquakes occur in the zone each year.

In the winter of 1811-1812, the NMSZ produced a series of earthquakes estimated at magnitude 7.0 or greater (similar in magnitude to the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti). One of the largest earthquakes in history was centered in the town of New Madrid on Feb. 7, 1812. Nearly 200 years of population growth in the region, which includes metropolitan areas such as St. Louis and Memphis, means that a repeat of the 1812 earthquake could cause considerably more damage.

During Earthquake Awareness Month, the Department will participate in a number of public activities by providing scientific data about the New Madrid Seismic Zone, mapping for risk assessment, potential earthquake risk for citizens, as well as providing geologic information about the basics of earthquakes. Missourians are encouraged to attend any of the following public events. Other venues and activities will be added. Plans are also underway to observe the 200th anniversary of the 1811-12 earthquakes.

Joe Gillman, state geologist and director of the department's Division of Geology and Land Survey said, "There is broad agreement in the scientific community that a continuing concern exists for a major destructive earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Geological evidence indicates large earthquakes, like those of 1811-1812, are rare. However, even more frequent, moderate-size earthquakes can be catastrophic. Our geologists are actively conducting hazards mapping projects to better understand impacts from seismic events such as ground collapse, soils liquefaction, landslides and flooding."

The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, a university consortium sponsored by the National Science Foundation, selected the department's Ed Clark Museum of Missouri Geology to receive an Active Earth Kiosk. The kiosk is an interactive computer-based tool that provides a way to engage audiences by displaying information about plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis.

The museum is located in Rolla the Division of Geology and Land Survey facility, 111 Fairgrounds Road. Admission to the museum is free. Hours of operation are from 8 a.m. -- 5 p.m. weekdays. The museum will be home-base for the Active Earth Kiosk the greater part of 2010 and will travel to other sites throughout the state through December 31, 2011. See this website for related events and information: dnr.mo.gov/geology

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Editor: Photo can be found at /newsrel/images/eqaware10.jpg