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Scientists Wary of Slight Shift in Central US Earthquake Fault Line

A University of Memphis study reported in the June edition of the journal Nature found a half-inch fault shift in the New Madrid earthquake zone,...
August 9, 2005

A University of Memphis study reported in the June edition of the journal Nature found a half-inch fault shift in the New Madrid earthquake zone, which consists of a 120-mile series of rifts that follows the Mississippi River.  Arch Johnson, director of the university's Center for Earthquake Research and Information, says the shift is significant. 

The New Madrid zone, which is one of the most active seismic regions in the country, was the location of one of the strongest earthquakes ever to hit the continental U.S., a 8.1 magnitude (or more) trembler, which was part of a series of strong quakes that occurred in 1811-1812.  The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there is a 40 percent chance that the New Madrid faults will produce a major quake by 2040 and a 10 percent chance that there will be a quake as strong as the ones that occurred at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is starting a "catastrophic planning initiative" for the Memphis area, the closest major city to the fault line. FEMA spokesman Butch Kinerney says the object is to prepare for any threat, not just an earthquake. USA Today reports the project will be designed for a widespread disaster that perhaps only a quake could produce: schools, hospitals, airports and power plants hit at once.

Hints of Quake Under Central USA (USA Today 8/7/05)

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