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The 1811-1812 Earthquakes Along New Madrid Faultline and Implications For Today

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Risks Along the San Madrid Faultline
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Historic Earthquakes and Continuing Risks Along the San Madrid Fault Line

  • May 20, 2012
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The 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes were intense beginning initially with dual earthquakes on December 16, 1811. These earthquakes remain the most powerful to hit the eastern United States in recorded history according to the  earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/states/events/1811-1812_pics.php"

The events were named for the Mississippi River town of New Madrid now within Missouri. Some sections of the Mississippi River appeared to run backward for a short time during the 1811-1812 earthquakes. A request, dated January 13, 1812, by William Clark , then the governor of the Louisiana Territory, asked for expeditious federal relief for the "inhabitants of New Madrid County."

There are estimates that the "http://hsv.com/genlintr/newmadrd/accnt1.htm" earthquakes  were felt considerably over a 50,000 sq mi area.  By comparison, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was felt moderately over a much smaller area. The New Madrid Seismic Zone consists of reactivated faults that formed when North America began to split during the breakup of a supercontinent during the Neoproterozoic Era.  Faults were created along the rift and igneous rocks formed from magma which pushed directionally toward the surface.

In a report filed in November 2008, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that a serious earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone could result in "the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States," further predicting "widespread and catastrophic" damage across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and particularly Tennessee, where a 7.7 magnitude quake or greater would cause damage to tens of thousands of structures affecting water facilities, transportation and other vital  "http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=46853" infrastructure.

Thee are some important remedies aimed at limiting damage to civilians and property in the San Madrid Fault area. Precautions include earthquake proofing structures and pipelines, altering building codes to reinforce buildings and infrastructure and contingency planning in the event of a major earthquake. Further mitigating steps include locating nuclear power plants away from the New Madrid Faultline together with automatic nuclear power plant shutdown features and the periodic testing of these features to ensure that they work when needed.

The nuclear reactor must have a contingency planning capability ( and testing thereof ) to ensure the orderly recovery of nuclear power generating capabilities in case of an exigency like a fire, flood, earthquake or other out-of-the norm operating condition or scenario. The contingency plan should outline the methodology to make certain that the needed staff, facilities, backup, data files, redundancy and facility suppliers return to normal operating conditions, as soon as possible after a random disaster . Automatic shutdown capabilities should be triggered in the event that the exigency consists of external environmental conditions that preclude the quick return to normal operating conditions.

The most important lesson learned from the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes is that contingency planning and disaster recovery planning are important steps in order to mitigate quake damage. In addition, building and infrastructure codes should be robust enough to anticipate the earthquake eventuality in order to lessen damages to public health, infrastructure and property.

1. <A HREF="http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/state...ents/1811-1812_pics.php">U.S. Geological Survey. <A>

2. <A HREF="http://hsv.com/genlintr/newmadrd/accnt1.htm" earthquakes <A>

3. <A HREF="http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=46853" infrastructure <A>

Article first published as <a href='http://blogcritics.org/scitech/article/lesso...uakes-and-implications/'>Lessons From Past Earthquakes and Implications For Today and The Future</a> on Blogcritics.
Historic Earthquakes and Continuing Risks Along the San Madrid Fault Line

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