Simulation: New Madrid Quake Would Kill 100,000 Instantly; Displace 7 Million
August 29th, 2011
If you live in and around Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi you might want to consider the following – then again, if you’re reading this web site you probably already have:
In May, the federal government simulated an earthquake so massive, it killed 100,000 Midwesterners instantly, and forced more than 7 million people out of their homes. At the time, National Level Exercise 11 went largely unnoticed; the scenario seemed too far-fetched — states like Illinois and Missouri are in the middle of a tectonic plate, not at the edge of one. A major quake happens there once every several generations.
National Level Exercise 11, or NLE 11, was, in essence, a replay of a disaster that happened 200 years earlier. On Dec. 16, 1811, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake hit the New Madrid fault line, which lies on the border region of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. It’s by far the largest earthquake ever to strike the United States east of the Rockies. Up to 129,000 square kilometers [50,000 square miles] were hit with “raised or sunken lands, fissures, sinks, sand blows, and large landslides,” according to the U.S. Geological Service. “Huge waves on the Mississippi River overwhelmed many boats and washed others high onto the shore. High banks caved and collapsed into the river; sand bars and points of islands gave way; whole islands disappeared.” People as far away as New York City were awakened by the shaking.
More quakes, of a similar size, followed. But the loss of life was minimal: Not too many people lived in the area at the time. Today, there are more than 15 million people living in the quake zone. If a similar quake hit, “7.2 million people could be displaced, with 2 million seeking temporary shelter” in the first three days, FEMA Associate Adminsitrator William Carwile told a Congressional panel in 2010. “Direct economic losses for the eight states could total nearly $300 billion, while indirect losses at least twice that amount.”
Source: Wired Danger Room