Letters-to-the-Editor, December 17, 2011
New Madrid bicentennial reminds us to be prepared
The next three months mark the 200th anniversary of the New Madrid quakes that rocked parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee in 1811-1812. Massive tectonic plates deep below began stretching and burping, forcing rivers to change course and run backward. Gaseous crevasses swallowed cattle and buildings.
If an 1811-sized quake struck under New Madrid now, damage would be staggering. One scenario projects 3,500 dead, 80,000 hurt, 730,000 displaced, 2.6 million without electricity. Countless schools, hospitals and fire stations built pre-1940 would be rubble. Ruined bridges would paralyze barge, truck and rail traffic in and out of the nation's breadbasket.
The message of the New Madrid quake bicentennial to St. Louis-area residents: Be prepared! Have an emergency plan and disaster kit. And join the Feb. 7, 2012, Great Central U.S. ShakeOut, an 11-state earthquake drill that last year had 3 million participants.
Claude Walker • Chicago