Earthquake threat is real, and we must be prepared

Saturday, July 13, 2019

As Californians spent last weekend being shaken and rattled by earthquakes, a lot of us in Southeast Missouri sat up and took notice before going on with our day.

Since Iíve been little, and that was a long time ago, Iíve been hearing about the big earthquake that was going to destroy the area. I remember when I was in high school getting a day off because Dr. Iben Browning predicted an earthquake where the bridges across the Mississippi River would collapse and buildings in Chicago would be damaged.

While the ground was silent that day, the panic wasnít with most schools closed and a ton of TV stations bombarding New Madrid. People bought up ďItís Our FaultĒ T-shirts as the prediction and panic became a joke that I still laugh with classmates about today.

Most of the time we go on with our everyday lives and donít give a second thought to living on such a large fault line. When someone tells us about a big earthquake coming, we all nod, agree and move on with our day, not giving it a second thought.

The earthquake survival kits of water, food, a change of clothes, first aid kit and other things we would need have been taken out of our cars, replaced with fun things like golf clubs, folding chairs for outdoor events and coolers to hold our drinks.

A new report from the Missouri Department of Insurance said that earthquake insurance coverage dropped to only 14% of homes in the New Madrid area in 2018. In 2000, 60% of homes were covered, but as no major earthquakes shake our senses, more people just think itís a waste of money.

Make no mistake though, the threat is real. One day a big earthquake will shake the region and do catastrophic damage that we canít pretend to comprehend. The evidence is right in front of us. The fault lines that make up the New Madrid Seismic Zones are real and every year there are about 200 earthquakes, most of which we fortunately canít feel.

While we in Southeast Missouri now scoff at predictions, the U.S. Geological Survey predicts there is a 25% to 40% chance a magnitude 6.0 earthquake or greater hits in the next 50 years and thereís a 7% to 10% chance a 7.7 or higher will hit in that time.

Whether we are prepared or not, that small earthquake we canít feel will eventually be a big earthquake that will change our lives forever. Hopefully it is many, many years in the future and hopefully nobody who reads this will ever have to experience it. But it will happen sooner or later.

So as we see the buckled highways and damaged homes in California, maybe we should take a moment to pack some water, food and a flashlight and store it away ó because it doesnít hurt to be a little prepared, all while scoffing at predictions of the next big earthquake.

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