Monday, May 05, 2014

Americans West of the Alleghenies and East of the Rockies Ought to Consider Earthquake Insurance

If you are the typical American, you believe earthquakes only happen on the West coast or in other countries. Recently, the breadbasket of America (the central plains) has seen an increase in the number and rate of frequency for earthquakes. Oil and natural gas fracking is the main reason many give for the recent surge of earthquakes throughout middle America.

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


Bob Cleveland said...

We're a lot closer to the New Madrid fault than Oklahoma, and we've had earthquake coverage for YEARS. It's one of those "Yes ... but what IF????" deals. Can't afford not to have it.

Anonymous said...

Where do you get it for that small amount? I live in ala and pay an extra 300 a year on a 150 k home.

Wade Burleson said...

Earthquake insurance in Oklahoma must be less than Alabama. We use AAA

Rex Ray said...


Your post was very educational…loved the story about the horse.

You once wrote and said I should write a book of stories. Here is one when I was 15 and weighed less than a hundred pounds.

There were a lot of us swimming in Red River. Our father had returned from being a chaplain in World War II. He stayed on the front the whole war and never lost in wrestling. His 210 pounds was solid muscle and he was strong as an ox. He was our hero.

I crossed the river where it was deep, narrow, and fast. I swam with the current and it was pretty easy. Our father decided to join me, but he was a long way below me. He tried to swim upstream. The river got wide, and the current took him farther away.

I followed on the bank. We were about 200 yards from the others. I saw a stake on both sides of the river where a fishing trotline could have been. He had told us about people drowning by being hooked by one. I caution him about the trotline and he swam harder.

I was admiring how he could swim so hard and long until he commanded, “HELP ME!” We were so far away, no one could hear us. I ran upstream to where the current would take me to him, but he thought I was running away. He was exhausted and his pleading voice rang in my ears. “PLEASE HELP ME!”

The current carried me to him in a few seconds. He kept his hand on my shoulder. He could have sunk me like a bug, but he didn’t apply much pressure. I decided we had to take our chances with the trotline and started angling downstream to the bank a hundred yards away. In a panic, he yelled. “Go to the bank!” It was only 50 feet upstream. I yelled back just as loud, “I am!”

When we crossed the trotline, I swam as shallow as I could and hoped it was deeper than us. When we got to the bank, he was so weak he couldn’t stand but laid on the sand saying, “I wouldn’t have made it without you.”

Anonymous said...

Wonder if all the quakes we've been having here in Oklahoma is stress relief for the New Madrid fault. Here in S.E. OK we've not felt anything (yet).

Great post about New Madrid. If something like that happens again it's going to be a lot worse than those little California burps.


Beth Duncan said...

Yes, but, I was reading a book fictional book about The Big One everyone thinks will hit LA some day. One thing that was brought up was earthquake insurance. The author of the book brought up that in a large earthquake hitting a large city, there would be so many people with claims that there would be no way the insurance companies could pay without going bankrupt.
And, realistically, say a large earthquake or a series of large earthquakes like what happened in 1811 - 1812 happened on the New Madrid fault. Memphis gone. St Louis, Chicago, and other large cities with a lot of heavy damage. How could the insurance companies pay out the claims? What would you really get for your earthquake insurance claim? Only a fraction of what you lost in the earthquake, if anything.
Just out of curiousity, have you ever read The Rift by a guy with the last name of Williams? Good fictional book about what if earthquakes the size of the 1811 - 1812 hit today. Might be out of print now, but you probably still find it.

Wade Burleson said...


I have not! :) Interesting comment about insurance! Sounds pretty logical to me.

Bob Cleveland said...

I spent almost half a century in the Property/Casualty Insurance business. Fear not .. the insurance industry has the reserves to pay the claims, principally through the mechanism of reinsurance.

Ceding and assuming reinsurance is so pervasive in the business that, after the 707 was blown up by terrorists in the desert .. which was videotaped and seen on American TV .. one of our local insurers in Indianapolis paid $7.00 toward that claim. And the Piper Alpha oil rig that blew up in the North Sea produced over one million reinsurance entries at Lloyd's, London.

I was told of that by our Lloyd's Broker on a visit to Lloyd's, in fact.

Bob Cleveland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rex Ray said...

Steve Finnell,


You quote Mark 16:16: “Anyone who believes and is BAPTIZED will be saved…” (NLT) and conclude it offends those who do NOT believe baptism is essential for salvation.
Peter said the same thing in Acts 2:38: “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be BAPTIZED in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. THEN you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

It’s said, “Actions speaks louder than words.” So what did Peter believe when the Gentiles were baptized in the Holy Spirit when they spoke in tongues BEFORE he stopped preaching and BEFORE they were baptized?

Steve, why did you not quote Jesus in the next verses? (Mark 16:17-18) “ These MIRACULOUS signs will accompany those who believe: They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages. They will be able to handle snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them. They will be able to place their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.” NLT

My father believe that “miracles” stopped after the apostles because they were not needed to show that Jesus was God’s Son since we had the Bible and the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us.

I agree that John 16:23 offends those who pray to Mary.

I agree that Titus 2:11 “offends those who believe God’s grace is only offered to a predetermined select few.”
Also that thinking would make Jesus a liar when he said, “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” (Matthew 23:37 NLT)

I strongly disagree that “Hebrews 6:4-6, (“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.”) “offend those who believe in once in grace always in grace.”

We that believe “once saved…always saved” are not offended by this Scripture because of two words: “impossible” and “if”.

This verse is like saying, ‘It’s IMPOSSIBLE to cross the ocean in a ship IF the ocean was dry.’

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

Anonymous said...

I totally believe in fracking for gas & oil but the central states are starting to see quakes up to the 4 & 5 range from what looks like fracture damage. Are they fracking close to Enid?

Rex Ray said...

Am I the only one that is willing to take the time to say the Bible teaches “Once saved, always saved”?

John 3:16 has no ‘ifs’, or ‘buts’.

“Today, you will be with me in Paradise” did NOT have any ‘Ifs’.

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

That is why in the Uniform Building Code, the area around New Madrid and St Louis is "Seismic Zone 3" -- the same seismic zone rating as Southern California and San Francisco Bay Area.

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

Yes, but, I was reading a book fictional book about The Big One everyone thinks will hit LA some day. One thing that was brought up was earthquake insurance. The author of the book brought up that in a large earthquake hitting a large city, there would be so many people with claims that there would be no way the insurance companies could pay without going bankrupt.

Lloyd's of London paid off their claims on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and that leveled the city. Lloyd's told their agents in San Fran to pay on all claims.

And regarding fictional books about The Big One, does anyone remember "Late Great State of California" from the mid-Sixties? The one that started the urban legend about California being prophesied to break off and sink into the sea? Kept the local psychics busy for years predicting it and having visions. (And probably took the whole "Earth Changes" kook movement mainstream.)

"Day after day
All the people come to L.A.
BOOSH! Don't you go telling them
The whole place shakin' away

"Where do we go
When there's no more San Francisco?
BOOSH! Better get ready
To tie up your boat in Idaho..."

Unknown said...

I agree that one of the advantages of knowledge of history is an ability to foresee the future. I've read an article by scientists of AllatRa Science that processes which happen now on our planet are cyclic and such climate phases took place in the past on the earth
It is noteworthy that climate change is dynamic, not gradual, as many scientists have previously claimed. Apparently, we already need to prepare for the upcoming global changes on Earth!