USGS increases earthquake risk along New Madrid Fault - WDRB 41 Louisville News

USGS increases earthquake risk along New Madrid Fault

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Courtesy: USGS Courtesy: USGS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The midwest region is preparing for earthquakes that are bigger and more powerful than ever believed imaginable.

The U.S. Geological Survey updated their seismic hazards map last week, and in it, Kentucky is listed as one of 16 states at highest risk of earthquakes.

USGS says the New Madrid Fault, which runs through a number of midwestern states, has been identified as an area that has potential for larger and more powerful quakes than previously thought.

Far Western Kentucky is highlighted on the map as being an area of "high risk." Geoscientists say if a major earthquake hits along the New Madrid Fault, damage and possibly even fatalities could reach as far as Louisville, Ky.

"If you do get a very high magnitude earthquake--and it's very possible at any time without any warning--then we would have deaths in Louisville," said Dr. Gerald Ruth, a geo scientist and professor at Indiana University Southeast.

Ruth adds that if a big quake hits the region, there will be plenty of aftershocks. He said unlike California, which experiences little tremors all the time, tension is built up in the midwest.

"In California, earthquakes are very common and the release of tectonic activity is quick and fast and the time for aftershocks is limited," said Ruth. "If we had a significant earthquake here, aftershocks would linger for months."

High school science teacher Bob Rollings ran the seismometer at Floyd Central High School until retiring last year. He says the region has been due for a big quake for some time.

Some seismologists, he says, believe that a major event--much like the magnitude 7 or 8 quakes that shook New Madrid in 1811--is due to hit every 200 years.

"The further away you get the less damage you would see," but he says the structure of the ground below you also plays a roll. "Where we are located right now, in Floyd Knobs, we are less likely to see damage here than down in New Albany which is the type of geology likely to suffer damage. And that would include the metropolitan area of Louisville."

The updated seismic hazard maps expanded areas and level of risk thanks to new research and more accurate data.

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