MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Friday, December 16, 2011 marks the 200 year anniversary of the Great New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-1812. Researchers say we need to remember the history of these major earthquakes that rocked the Mid-South in order to prepare for the future. The center of the first major earthquake was near Caruthersville, Missouri. There were a series of quakes through the next year. Reseachers believe there were earthquakes between a 7.0 and 8.0 magnitude that were felt all across the U.S.
Eyewitness accounts from 1811 and 1812 describe the Mississippi River flowing backwards at one point after the first major quake.
Kent Moran, U of M Research Associate/Historian, says, “At the time of the New Madrid earthquakes, all Memphis had was a little fort called Fort Pickering. Now, we have way more population and way more infrastructure to experience an earthquake.”
If the great quakes of 1811 and 12 were to happen today, not only Memphis, but the entire Mid-South would have catastrophic results. Electric, gas, and water systems would be heavily damaged, making for a very difficult recovery. In an effort to keep this from happening, Memphis Light Gas and Water has invested $81 million to reinforce substations and water lines so they can withstand a major earthquake.
Researchers say their goal is to understand what drives the New Madrid fault and to study was has happened in the past in order to understand what it may do in the future.