June 2016 – SIKESTON, Missouri – It is well known that California and most of the west coast of the USA are thought to be long overdue magnitude 7 or stronger earthquakes. News there has been significant movement along the 800-mile San Andreas Fault in the Sunshine State and an emergency drill of how to deal with a devastating tsunami along the length of the west coast, have kept both impending natural disasters in the headlines across the globe.
But it has largely been forgotten that another potential disaster is lurking within the ground in Missouri. The 150-mile long New Madrid Seismic Zone in New Madrid, Missouri, is the source of the concern, and is also thought to be overdue for a massive tremor, which would impact seven states – Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. It has not seen significant earthquakes for more than 200 years.
In the winter of 1811 and 1812 there were three earthquakes of magnitude 7 – as high as 7.7 – and a series of aftershocks across the American Midwest. The results were catastrophic, with the course of the Mississippi being diverted, chasms ripping open, and volcanoes of sand and water bursting through the ground. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warned in 1999 there were four natural disasters which threatened the states.
They included major hurricanes hitting Miami and New Orleans, which has recently been rocked by Katrina, and megaquakes hitting Los Angeles, and the central USA. The US Geological Survey (USGS) has a map of the country which includes a giant pink warning area over the central states. Each year there are hundreds of small tremors in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, including a 3.5 magnitude quake last month, which many saw as a precursor. The USGS even raised the threat level for 2016 after this increase in activity. Although the risk to these areas is less trumpeted than California and the west coast, $260million was spent on seismic strengthening of the I-40 bridge over the Mississippi into Memphis.
It is hoped the crossing, which towers over the river, could now withstand the anticipated shocks. Memphis state officials also reduced the main hospital by nine floors to limit the risk of collapse at a cost of $64m. The Mid-America Earthquake Center at the University of Illinois released a report in 2009, which suggested the effects of a force seven or stronger quake from the fault line. Amr Elnashai, the study’s lead author, wrote “All hell will break loose.”
The predicted scenario saw close to 715,000 buildings, including 130 hospitals, and 3,500 bridges damaged. Deaths and injuries were estimated at 86,000 with a combined loss of $300billion. The Central US Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) is based next to Memphis Airport. James Wilkinson, its director, fears the Mississippi would be released from an engineered prison of levees, causing maximum damage. He told The Atlantic: “The thing that, to me, makes the river scary is how much industry we have along it: there’s power plants, there’s chemical plants, there’s ports. “And the river might change course altogether.
“I mean if we’re at flood stage, it’s kind of the worst-of-the-worst case scenario. “So if the levees are already jeopardised either by overtopping or saturation, where the water’s been there for quite a while, and then you get a shake to it? “You know, the river’s just gonna take the path of least resistance. And who knows whether that’s right through these communities.
“I doubt it’s going to stay in the channel it’s in. The Army Corps of Engineers battles that on a daily basis but the river’s already trying to change course. “They keep it somewhat channeled, but in a massive earthquake we could lose a good part of Western Kentucky, we could lose a good part of Arkansas or southern Missouri.”
He is convinced it is only a matter of time. He said: “We’ve had earthquakes, we’ve had damage, but nothing like what we’ve seen in other parts of the world. So the clock’s ticking.” But not all seismologists agree. Seth Stein, based in Evanston, Illinois, has researched the fault line for 30 years, and told The Atlantic the warnings were “dangerous nonsense.” He set up GPS receivers along the fault line and found the land was moving two millimeters a year, if at all, meaning there is next to no strain within it. He said: “Basically the way to think about the lithosphere – and it’s easy when you live in Chicago – is, imagine you have big chunks of ice floating around on the lake, and those things are sliding by each other.
So those are the plate boundary earthquakes, like in California. “But then within those big ice sheets you have small cracks. And there are very small motions within them. That’s how the big pieces stay together.” He claims Stein any recorded new rumblings are still the aftershocks of the 1811-1812 events. He added: “Every time there’s a magnitude 4 people like CUSEC are claiming giant earthquake’s on the way. And you think about this, and you look into the rock physics and it says no, it’s the opposite. Those are aftershocks.” –Express
14 earthquakes hit Tennessee and Missouri in the New Madrid Seismic Zone in 24 hours – Is the Big One near?
Since 24 hours, a swarm of 14 earthquakes is sweeping across Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas, right in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.
Strange Sounds: Is Big New Madrid Quake Around the Corner??
Information On Growing Sinkhole Problem Swallowing Southern Missouri Along The New Madrid Could Be Cause Of Fema Concern
(This is beginning to Look fairly serious, the biggest short term problem shutting down traffic) (Longer term there are around 20 reactors there)
(N.Morgan) These sinkholes are by the New Madrid Fault Line. This could be a reason for concern. Could this cause a massive chain reaction, hence, setting off the New Madrid? Between all of the flooding and other bad weather there, this could turn into a very serious situation. Now that FEMA is there, that would imply the situation is probably a lot worse than what is being reported.
Here’s the story as reported by the Southern Missourian:
More sinkholes are showing up on Cape Girardeau’s south side, and they continue to grow.
Cape Girardeau public works director Tim Gramling on Wednesday said continued Mississippi River flooding means the sinkholes that have shown up in the South Sprigg Street area remain “active” with the potential to grow.
“When I say they’re active, that means they continue to grow and swallow whatever is inside or nearby the hole,” he said. “That’s just the nature of a sinkhole.”
Sinkholes on South Sprigg Street, as seen Wednesday, June, 19, 2013, continue to grow.
There have been reports of a third sinkhole forming along the street, and Gramling said it is related to the others.
“It’s actually just part of one that’s already there,” he said. “It’s kind of difficult to explain, but they’re all a part of the same underground system.”
The city so far has found four sinkholes in the area that now is being called the “South Sprigg sinkhole area.” Two are on the road, another near LaCroix Creek and one underneath the bridge on Sprigg Street.
Gramling said growth or “movement” was to be expected and the city is trying to determine whether anything could be done about the problem. The sinkholes have closed a portion of South Sprigg Street.
The sinkhole near the creek is causing water to flood into the nearby Buzzi Unicem quarry. Gramling previously said employees from Buzzi Unicem were attempting to keep down the flow into the quarry by damming the creek. Messages left at Buzzi Unicem on Wednesday afternoon were not returned.
Another hole formed Tuesday in a south-side yard, but emergency responders who went to the scene said it wasn’t clear whether this new void was a sinkhole similar to those along Sprigg Street.
The Cape Girardeau Fire Department at 7:25 p.m. on Tuesday responded to a call of a possible sinkhole formation on South Ellis Street.
Fire chief Rick Ennis said firefighters found a hole behind a vacant house at 1125 S. Ellis St., but he was unsure Wednesday whether it was an actual sinkhole.
“At this point we’re not treating it like it is [a sinkhole], but we will be monitoring the area to see if it’s an isolated incident or if more occur,” he said.
Ennis said there were no hazards, injuries or damages.
The incident occurred about 1 mile north of the sinkholes thathave formed at South Sprigg Street.
Gramling said at that distance, it is unlikely the Ellis Street hole is related to the Sprigg Street sinkholes. While he has been out of town and unable to look at the hole for himself, Gramling said the collapse likely occurred because of a void left underground from an old sewer line or septic tank.
Although the sinkholes have been a concern in that area since 2007, the problem worsened when the Mississippi River rose above flood stage for the second time this spring, cresting just short of 45 feet June 7. The river was slow to retreat, hovering just below the “major” flood mark of 42 feet into the next week.
The river at Cape Girardeau was estimated to be at almost 35.5 feet Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Flood stage at Cape Girardeau is 32 feet.
One of several sinkholes along South Sprigg Street is seen in this photo Wednesday. City officials say the sinkholes are growing in size and number. (Laura Simon)
Gramling also has said the retreating water can actually aggravate the sinkholes.
On Wednesday, representatives with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Missouri State Emergency Management Agency met with local emergency management officials to inspect the sinkholes on South Sprigg Street and conduct joint preliminary damage assessments.