Experts Worry More About Aging Infrastructure Than Nuclear Plants if "Big One" Occurs in Heartland

By Matthew Harwood


"The City of Memphis and the surrounding metropolitan area of more than one million people would be severely impacted," the short report states. "Memphis has an aging infrastructure, and many of its large buildings, including unreinforced schools and fire and police stations, would be particularly vulnerable when subjected to severe ground shaking. Relatively few buildings were built using building codes that have provisions for seismic-resistant design."

The USGS fact sheet also notes that St. Louis, Missouri, and Little Rock, Arkansas, would sustain damage and that roadways, other infrastructure, and agricultural fields within the Mississippi Valley would be damaged or destroyed if another 1812 event occurred.

Based on past earthquakes in the New Madrid zone, the USGS estimates that there's a 7 to 10 percent chance another string of earthquakes similar to the 1811-12 sequence will occur over the next 50 years, and a 25 to 40 percent chance that a 6.0-magnitude earthquake or larger will strike within the same time frame.

This spring, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct a large, interagency disaster-response exercise inside the New Madrid Seismic Zone. The department says the choice of location for the exercise has no connection to Japan, according to FOX News.

♦ Map of New Madrid and Wabash Valley Seismic Zones by USGS/WikiMediaCommons


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