25 January 2014

Fear and trembling

When I was in grade school, possibly in seventh grade, there were great concerns about the New Madrid fault line which, from the impression given to my fellow students and I, was ready to shake the country in half.  So the great were the fears that we had earthquake drill after earthquake drill, hiding under our little wooden desks under which we could not actually fit - all in west central Illinois!

To my great disappointment, we never experienced an earthquake and the two very minor tremors felt in central Illinois some years back occurred when I was not in Illinois (the first when I was in Washington, D.C. for the visit of His Holiness Benedict XVI, the second when I was in Hawaii).

As is often the case, all of the fear-mongering on the part of the media came to nothing.  Still, it seems they are not content to simply let things lie but may be attempting to stir more fear yet again (it is, after all, what they do best these days):
Hough and USGS geophysicist Morgan Page in Pasadena, Calif., analyzed past quakes in the New Madrid region and used computer modeling to determine that the continuing tremors are not related to the big quakes two centuries ago.

"Our new results tell us that something is going on there, and therefore a repeat of the 1811-1812 sequence is possible," Hough said.
What happened in 1811-1812, you ask?  Two earthquakes:
In 1811 and 1812, it unleashed a trio of powerful jolts — measuring magnitudes 7.5 to 7.7 — that rattled the central Mississippi River valley. Chimneys fell and boats capsized. Farmland sank and turned into swamps. The death toll is unknown, but experts don't believe there were mass casualties because the region was sparsely populated then.
I've often wondered what an earthquake feels like, not a tiny one you can sleep right through nor a large one shakes buildings apart, but just one strong enough to feel and to shake things a bit.  Perhaps I'll get to experience one back home in the future.

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