[credit provider=”National Guard via flickr” url=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaguardpao/5555727336/sizes/m/in/photostream/”]
After yesterdays ‘quake, what seemed like a far-fetched earthquake training scenario by the federal government in May no longer seems so irrelevant.Wired reports that the National Level Exercise 11 training mission spread 9,000 National Guard troops across several Midwestern states, responding as though 100,000 Americans had been killed.
The region has a deadly history. Situated on an intraplate fault called the New Madrid fault, Illinois and Missouri were at the heart of the biggest earthquake in U.S. history.
The New Madrid quake series of 1811-1812 was so extreme the land lifted and blocked the Mississippi River, causing it to flow backward.
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.
Earthquakes like this happen only once every several generations, but they do happen, and the area is far more populated today than it was then.
If a similar quake were to occur now, FEMA estimates 7.2 million people could be displaced, with direct economic losses of $300 billion, and indirect losses double that.
Check out the FEMA video describing the New Madrid fault below: