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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Are you ready for the Central US ShakeOut?

Central U.S. plans earthquake drill

It happens at 10:15 CDT (that's 11:15 for those of us in Eastern) and lots of schools and other organisations will be participating. Unfortunately the hospital won't, but then I think they're a little wearied seeing as they spent over an hour in the safe halls during two tornado warnings yesterday, so maybe it's just as well. I did pass it on. I think it's an excellent idea.

People don't really realise it, but several states in the Central US (including Kentucky) may be affected by a strong earthquake from the New Madrid fault. At one point, a quake from New Madrid made the Mississippi seem to run backwards.

The 1811 and 1812 earthquakes centered in the New Madrid, Mo., area caused little damage because the area was sparsely populated then, says Michael Blanpied, associate coordinator of the U.S. Geological Survey's earthquake hazards program. The largest of those quakes probably was about magnitude 7.0, he says.

A similar quake now "will cause damage and will cause disruption," he says. The New Madrid zone is "the most active seismic area in the continental U.S. east of the Rockies," he says. Over the next 50 years, the likelihood of a magnitude-6.0 quake is 25%-40% and the probability of a magnitude-7.0 or greater temblor is one in 10, Blanpied says.

Participants in today's drill include businesses, schools and residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee. Indiana conducted its drill April 19. They are modeled on California's annual ShakeOut, which began in 2008, says Brian Blake of the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium, a non-profit group that coordinates earthquake planning.

There is also the Wabash Valley Seismic zone on the border of Indiana and Illinois. So between them, we have potential earthquake activity to consider. Given the recent quakes in places like Japan, Haiti, and New Zealand, it's important to remember how to respond to quakes and seek cover.

The Great Central US ShakeOut page has more information. You've got about 2 1/2 hours to prepare. That's more than most people get. Remember, it's hard to react well in a disaster without some forethought. Yesterday I couldn't find the flashlight/radio that I'd had sitting out just in case of a tornado warning, and I couldn't get the FM radio on my phone for some reason. It's always good to have a backup plan.

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