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Readers Skeptical About Major Earthquake in Their Lifetimes

December 19, 2018 Featured, Missouri, STL Region No Comments
The elevated sections of I-64 in St. Louis have been retrofitted to hopefully withstand a major earthquake.

Earthquakes happen all the time, we just don’t feel them. I’m nearly 52 and have never felt an earthquake.

My oldest brother was living in the San Francisco Bay Area during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, my other brother was living in the Los Angeles area during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. A close personal friend was living in Seattle during the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake. My relatives in Oklahoma have all felt their frequent, but minor, earthquakes. I’d be ok with never feeling one, but that time may come.

Here in St. Louis we’re part of at least two seismic zones:

With the New Madrid fault just a hundred miles south of St. Louis, it’s long been known that the region is at a greater risk for an earthquake than other parts of the Midwest. But new research indicates that St. Louis is part of an area that has seismic activity of its own.

Geologists have identified a new seismic zone stretching from St. Louis to Cape Girardeau along the Mississippi River called the Ste. Genevieve Seismic Zone. Their research indicates that the zone is capable of producing moderate earthquakes every few decades and has the potential to produce a major earthquake every 2,000 to 4,000 years.

“It’s a roll of the dice, right. If you’re unlucky, it could happen in your lifetime. The odds are not high,” Indiana University Geologist Gary Pavlis said.

A moderate earthquake measures about a magnitude 5 on the Richter scale. Pavlis said they can be felt but would only dislodge a few bricks here and there.

While the Ste. Genevieve Seismic Zone may not produce anything major in our lifetimes, the same can’t be said of the New Madrid Seismic Zone. OK, someone who’s 90 might not see the big one in their lifetimes, but those in your 20s may. It might happen next week.

There is broad agreement in the scientifc community that a continuing concern exists for a major destructive earthquake in the New Madrid seismic zone. Many structures in Memphis, Tenn., St. Louis, Mo., and other communities in the central Mississippi River Valley region are vulnerable and at risk from severe ground shaking. This assessment is based on decades of research on New Madrid earthquakes and related phenomena by dozens of Federal, university, State, and consulting earth scientists. (USGS)

Those in floodplain areas might experience the worst of it, because of liquefaction of the soil.

In the recent non-scientific poll more than half don’t expect the big one to hit St. Louis in their lifetimes:

Q: Agree or disagree: A major earthquake will “wreck” St. Louis in my lifetime.

  • Strongly agree: 3 [10.71%]
  • Agree: 2 [7.14%]
  • Somewhat agree: 7 [25%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [3.57%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [10.71%]
  • Disagree: 6 [21.43%]
  • Strongly disagree: 3 [10.71%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 3 [10.71%]

Hopefully they’re correct.

— Steve Patterson

 

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