Illinois and the rest of the Midwest haven’t seen significant destruction from an earthquake in more than 200 years, but that doesn’t mean the threat has vanished.
February is Earthquake Awareness Month and Illinois officials use the time to remember the quake of 1812 and share safety tips.
“Creating an environment of education, awareness and preparedness will save lives in Illinois,” said Alicia Tate-Nadeau, acting director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.
Bob Bauer, principal engineering geologist with the Illinois State Geological Survey, said the destruction from the string of quakes that hit in 1811 and 1812 appeared to change the direction of the Mississippi River.
“The fault moved up the ground so as to block the river in some places and in other places it caused a waterfall,” he said.
The New Madrid fault zone, which is where the quakes of 1811-12 were centered, runs from the southern tip of Illinois into Arkansas.
The ground in the Midwest is more dense and unbroken, Bauer said, leading to stronger tremors that would damage buildings that aren’t necessarily as prepared for earthquakes as structures in places like California.
“We have older structures,” he said. “We have some old school buildings that are approaching 60 or 70 years old.”
The last significant quake to hit southern Illinois was when a magnitude 5.4 tremor struck at 11:02 a.m. on Nov. 9, 1968.