Most Americans do not know that the largest and most severe earthquakes in the United States happened in eastern Arkansas, southern Missouri, and western Tennessee, with damage throughout the central plains, before the era of oil and gas exploration The 1811/1812 series of earthquakes called the New Madrid earthquakes were the strongest in our country's history.
That's New Madrid -- Missouri, not Spain.
It is difficult to know the exact strength of the February 7, 1812 New Madrid earthquake since seismology had not yet been invented, but it is estimated that this quake was more powerful than the 1906 San Francisco earthquake or the 1995 Kobe, Japan earthquake that killed 5,000 people.
The Mississippi River began to flow north for a season as a result of the earthquake. Homes were completely swallowed up by the ground. Houses were shaken as far away as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Norfolk, Virginia, with residents awakened by the intense shaking.[Church bells rang in Boston and in York, Ontario (now Toronto). Sidewalks were reported to have been cracked and broken in Washington, D.C. Many other strange phenomenon took place as a result of the New Madrid quake. Due to America being an infant agricultural nation in 1811/1812, and due to the rivers being frozen by winter cold, the commercial and residential damage was not nearly as extensive as it would be today. Other massive quakes have occurred in the region since 1812, including one estimated at 6.8 in 1895 (see picture above).
According to the National Geographic, it is not "if" another big earthquake in the central United States occurs, but "when."
The most extraordinary first person account of the 1812 New Madrid earthquake was given by the naturalist and ornithologist John James Audubon (1785-1851). Audubon, the namesake for the National Audobon Society, frequently explored the Midwest, often accompanied by Indian guides, including the great Black Beaver. Audubon was on horseback at the time of the New Madrid earthquake. He heard the distant rumbling of what he believed to be a tornado. He described his experience in this manner:
“The animal knew better than I what was forthcoming, and instead of going faster, so nearly stopped that I remarked he placed one foot after another on the ground with as much precaution as if walking on a smooth piece of ice. I thought he had suddenly foundered, and, speaking to him, was on point of dismounting and leading him, when he all of a sudden fell a-groaning pieteously, hung his head, spread out his forelegs, as if to save himself from falling, and stood stock still, continuing to groan. I thought my horse was about to die, and would have sprung from his back had a minute more elapsed; but as that instant all the shrubs and trees began to move from their very roots, the ground rose and fell in successive furrows, like the ruffled water of a lake, and I became bewildered in my ideas, as I too plainly discovered, that all this awful commotion was the result of an earthquake. I had never witnessed anything of the kind before, although like every person, I knew earthquakes by description. But what is description compared to reality! Who can tell the sensations which I experienced when I found myself rocking, as it were, upon my horse, and with him moving to and fro like a child in a cradle, with the most imminent danger around me. When the earthquake retreated, the air was filled with an extremely disagreeable sulphurous odor."Now, fast forward 200 years and put yourself in a car, an office building, or a public arena. One of the benefits of knowing history is an ability to anticipate the future. While everyone in the Midwest tends to blame the oil and gas industry for more frequent earthquakes in our region, a simple knowledge of the past will remind us that massive earthquakes in the United States occur more than in just the state of California.
Rachelle and I pay $30 a year (not a month, a year) to insure our home against an earthquake. It could be the best $30 a homeowner in the Midwest ever spends