HUNTSVILLE, AL.(WHNT)-When it comes to earthquakes, the “big one” could be coming soon, and we’re not talking about California or some place overseas.
Many people don’t realize that north Alabama lies in the impact zone of the New Madrid fault line, a sleeping giant that is approximately twenty times larger than California’s famed San Andreas fault. The biggest earthquake in U.S. history happened in the New Madrid seismic zone in 1812, and in just the last few weeks, activity along the fault line is starting to heat up. An earthquake centered in eastern Arkansas rattled residents in multiple states in late October, making the quake the largest in the NMSZ in several years.
A recent earthquake study conducted by FEMA rated 12 Alabama counties as code critical, with those in northwest Alabama at highest risk of a New Madrid event. Geologists and other earthquake experts assessed the potential impact on Alabama in a WHNT News 19 special report produced by reporter Nick Banaszak.
“I think most people are aware that earthquakes can occur here, but they just can’t remember the last time one shook them,” said Gary Patterson, a geologist with the Center for Earthquake Research and Information in Memphis. “You take the same magnitude earthquake, put one in California, one here. The one here is going to effect ten to twenty times larger an area. That’s incredible…We know that the earthquakes of 1811, 1812 were felt 1,000 to 1,200 miles away.”
New Madrid Seismic Zone
The New Madrid Seismic Zone (pronounced / /), sometimes called the New Madrid Fault Line, is a major seismic zone and a prolific source of intraplate earthquakes (earthquakes within a tectonic plate) in the southern and midwestern United States, stretching to the southwest from New Madrid, Missouri.
The New Madrid fault system was responsible for the 1811–1812 New Madrid earthquakes and may have the potential to produce large earthquakes in the future. Since 1812 frequent smaller earthquakes were recorded in the area.
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