State: 1812 earthquake would devastate if it occurred today

Southern Illinois and the surrounding area would take tens of billions of dollars in damage were an earthquake similar to what hit the area 205 years ago this month happen again. That’s the warning from the state’s emergency management agency.

February is Earthquake Preparedness Month in Illinois, commemorating the 1812 earthquake on the New Madrid fault that shook with so much force that it was said to have been felt in Quebec and Boston. Some locals reported that the Mississippi River changed direction the flowed north in some locations.

The tremors were estimated around 7 on the Richter Scale, but the technology was not around at the time to get an exact measurement. By comparison, the 2008 earthquake centered near downstate Mt. Carmel registered 5.4.

There was minimal damage in 1812 because there wasn’t much built in the area. Today, however, would be a different story.

“We now have a lot of infrastructure that would be severely impacted if we had another earthquake of that large magnitude,” Illinois Emergency Management Agency Spokeswoman Annie Thompson said.

IEMA estimates that a similar quake would cause $60 billion to $80 billion in damage today. It’s because of our complex infrastructure.

“There would be roads and bridges out and pipelines that would have burst,” Thompson said.

More than 40 million people now live within the region shook by the quake of 1812.

Thompson points to ready.illinois.gov for a number of tips to be ready for the next earthquake. While she said there are a number of things you can do to make your home earthquake-ready, few are more important than securing the water heater.

“If it shakes loose, we’re not just talking about water. We’re talking about a ruptured gas line,” she said.

Thompson said that the agency coordinates with agencies across the world to participate in the Great ShakeOut, an earthquake preparedness drill being held this year on Oct. 19. The IEMA also works closely with private groups like the Red Cross when these disasters happen because there is often a large influx of private giving and volunteering during times of local crises.

–Illinois News Network

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