Skip to comments.FEMA Official Says New Madrid Earthquake Preparedness Is Agency Priority
Posted on 02/25/2006 9:38:10 AM PST by Strategerist
ST. LOUIS - Preparing for a catastrophic earthquake along the New Madrid fault is a priority, a FEMA official said Friday before a congressional field hearing on government readiness to handle natural disasters.
"New Madrid is at the top of the list," Michel Pawlowski, section chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said. "It's our primary objective."
Pawlowski told a congressional committee that FEMA has "significant concerns" for the potential of a catastrophic earthquake equal in magnitude to those that struck parts of the Mississippi River Valley in 1811-1812, and again in 1895. The estimated magnitude of those earthquakes is 7.5 or 8. The probability of a magnitude 6 or larger earthquake is 25 percent to 50 percent over the next 50 years.
Even a magnitude 7 earthquake would destroy more than 60 percent of buildings in St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn., because most buildings predate building requirements aimed at resisting the shock, officials estimate.
(Excerpt) Read more at abcnews.go.com ...
Also, there's some fairly strong evidence that one of the main 1811-1812 earthquakes was actually in the Wabash Valley of Southern Illinois and Indiana, not near New Madrid.
Good to see FEMA thinking about it, I guess.
However I'm deeply concerned about the possibility of lack of earthquake awareness in the Intermountain West, particularly Salt Lake City, Reno-Carson City Nevada, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. A lot of people have recently moved to those areas and I even get the impression that long-time residents are unaware of the serious risk of strong earthquakes they face there.
If I remember the history of what happened last time that fault had a major shift, it dramatically changed the course of the Mississippi river and devastated hundreds of thousands of square miles. What does FEMA think they can do?
"women and minorities hit hardest."
" they were so poor and so black"(Wolf Blitzer)
Spend lots of taxpayer dollars, of course!
Another is the Yellowstone Caldera.
When/If that one blows it will wipe out everything including FEMA.
Lots of other cheerful stuff on that site.
Again, if I remember correctly the impact of the last major New Madrid fault incident reached all the way to Virginia causing floods here that costs thousands of lives. I don't think there is anything FEMA can do to prepare for something like that. The event would be like one of the Hollywood comet strike movies I think if its at its worst. This is grand standing if you ask me.
That is what N.O. and Katrina were about, a trial run. When the Mississippi changes course that will solve the N.O. problem. It is all in the grand plan. The government has it covered. Nothing to worry about. Move along.
I assume the sarcasm tag is not needed.
"What does FEMA think they can do?"
Can't stop a disaster, but even a small amount of planning for this and other disasters help to reduce the loss of life. Over the years, property damage has gone up from hurricanes and earthquakes, but the loss of life went down in the US.
And deeply misleading. There's no particular evidence whatsoever Yellowstone is nearing a supervolcanic eruption. There's been a great deal of misrepresentation, misunderstanding, and flat out false info regarding this in the media, documentaries, and on a boatload o' crappy websites.
Another problem is an overfocus by the public, documentary makers, etc. on exotic stuff with a very, very, very low probability of happening - like a Yellowstone supervolcanic eruption, or things that have been scientifically debunked, like the supposed megatsunami on the East Coast from Cumbre Vieja volcano collapsing.
This causes people to ignore things with a very realistic chance of happening, like an M 7 to 7.5 earthquake in Salt Lake City, that, while, it wouldn't end life on earth, would make Katrina look like a joke.
....What does FEMA think they can do?....
They can train earth quake responders. I took the FEMA training and presumedly will be close but far away. Memphis is in danger and trainded people are avaiable in east Tennessee.
After the last big earthquake in the NW (Feb 01), I looked into areas that didn't have a risk of earthquake, because I didn't want to live in an earthquake zone anymore. One was Florida (hurricanes) and I can't remember the second, but it was someplace with tornadoes, I believe.
Tend to agree with you.
Main thing is to live life to it's fullest while you are here. Kids and grandkids, a good steak, cold beer etc etc.
I really appreciate your willingness to help and preparedness to do so. I'm just afraid a New Madrid event will be more like the recent mudslide in the PI...just put up a marker saying what had once been. Enough of that pessimism...on to something else.
So you'd move your entire life because there might be a natural disaster?
I can't even imagine how long it's been since you were in a city.
You're basically completely safe from earthquakes in South Florida, South Texas, North Wisconsin, and Minnesota and North Dakota. First two can be dispensed with due to hurricanes, of course, if you're looking at risk avoidance.
Remaining states do have tornadoes but the risk of a specific house getting hit by one is vanishingly small; people overestimate tornado damage because there are lots of tornadoes a year, and they create spectacular photogenic damage; but the damage paths are really, really, really narrow. Also people get put under a LOT of tornado watches and warnings, most of which end up with no tornado hitting them, but it creates anxiety.
One weird thing I've noticed is the Mag 7 1886 Charleston South Carolina earthquake gets very little "run" in the media or on FR. Never see articles or documentaries on it, or people mentioning it on FR. Not like there aren't pictures of damage, and good accounts of it.
I'm east of Albuquerque a bit, and I'm aware. We had a 3.8 a few years ago. Startled me. Everyone else, including the dogs, slept through it.
Today's silly question: How do they know the 1895 earthquake was a magnitude 6? Did they have the instruments to measure quakes back then?
Whoa! That's what I call a big volcano.
It is a "Whopper" for sure.
Of course here in CenTex we worry more about drought, wildfires and tornadoes.
Newspaper reports ofthetime say thay the Mississippi reversed course..flowed backwards upstream for some time..
I suggest a major think tank top secret Manhattan like government funded project to develop a "MAGIC WAND".
If successfully developed, whenever there is a catastrophic event either man-made or natural, all we have to do is WAVE IT and everything will be fixed.....no infrastructure damage, no physical suffering no mental anguish, no alternative healing, JUST WAVE it, and with a bit if incantation and all will be well!!!
< /sarcasm >
Strictly an estimate based on anecdotal and physical evidence.
Bush Fails To Prevent East Coast Blizzard
Minorities Hit Hardest
by Brian Williams
As President Bush and his staff cowered in the White House, the snow continued to pile up on the many poor and African American victims who could not afford to get out of town or to safety in Florida.
Crucial supplies of blankets, hot cocoa, popcorn and dark rum, so essential to surviving the stress of any major snowstorm, lay in stores undelivered.
"Where is the government? I need my sidewalk shoveled so I can get out to buy my danged lottery tickets!" said one D.C. resident from his living room.
"Why are we wasting money in Iraq when we could be spending it here on me?"
Progressive blogs blasted the President for his inaction. "We find the timing terribly suspicious, just as the Domestic Spying hearings kick into high gear, what happens? A major northeast Blizzard. Why now?" wrote one blogger.
Hearings into the Blizzards' effect on hearings are almost a certainty.
Howard Dean has suggested he will call for an investigation once his new medications kick in and John Kerry took a break from the sporting activities of the glamorous super-rich in some exotic locale (random choice: Ice Sailing in Finland) to call for new legislation outlawing snowstorms.
"The Republican Congress has dropped the ball once again. I have always been a staunch supporter of anti-snow legislation, except for certain locations where I ski. Snow has no business on our roads and the President and Congress knows that."
Calls for impeachment over "SnowGate" as some are calling it already are mounting as deeply as the snow itself, and what will be discovered underneath will prove to have a truly chilling effect on the Republicans, as the inevitable thaw proceeds. Or something like that.
More breaking news......
Al Sharpton wants an investigation as to why snow is ALWAYS white.
Cheney has stock in Tru-Value Hardware. Do you have any idea how many SNOW SHOVELS they sold today to the unsuspecting consumer?
I demand to know why FEMA has been so late in reacting to this storm. THEY KNEW IT WAS COMING! And yet they failed to have crews in place to fix the electricity as soon as it went off. It just shows that Bush and the Republicans just don't care about the people in the N.E. The Senate needs to investigate this with administration people under oath.
I'll bet that the great junior senator from N.Y. has opened the doors of her home to all of the heatless poor of her neighborhood and is busy baking cookies for them while her husband applies body heat to the nearly frozen teen-aged girls.
"What does FEMA think they can do?"
Whatever it takes for them and their sponsers to maintain power.Thats really all its about.
Grandstanding and reaching for great gobs of money.
Other problem is that in an earthquake on the SLC segment of the Wasatch Fault is that SLC is going to drop in elevation; meaning the lake is going pour into the city (Not some grand tsunami but you're going to have places that were once dry land under several feet of water.)
Yeah, a big problem is that most of the larger cities in Utah are built mostly on old lakebed. Not very stable.
There was another thread where I mentioned this and there were a couple of people from SLC (moved there recently, I think) who were doing the "What, EARTHQUAKES? Here?" routine.
Richter Scale came about in the 1920s..before that there was instrumentation (there are extant seismograph traces of the 1906 SF earthquake)....so for 1895 I believe there are actual records.
For quakes even older than that, like the 1811-1812 earthquakes, magnitudes have to be guestimated from a combo of maps showing the range of human "felt" reports and damage to structures (the Mercalli scale, in roman numerals) and physical evidence (how far a fault moved, how far away from the quake you have things like sand blows - where the shaking causes waterlogged sand to spill out on the ground from below, etc.)
These estimates are difficult and uncertain and you can get a lot of argument.
Interestingly most recently a lot of authors have reduced the magnitudes of the 1811-1812 New Madrid quakes from a lot of the really high estimates earlier; some have none of them being bigger than Magnitude 7.5.
My mega-disaster of choice is the onset of a renewed Ice Age.
All it would take is one lingering winter with heavy snow in Canada's north, in particular, northern Quebec.
Or so I am given to believe by climatologists.
It was interesting, to say the least.
I live in Southern California and I believe that we are more prepared for an earthquake than any place on Earth. We have proof -- the Northridge quake. 57 deaths is an amazingly low number for an earthquake of that size. I am 3 miles from the epicenter and had power and gas back within 1 day!
And then after that we continue to refine the rules and procedures. THey run earthquake drills here at least twice a year and sometimes more frequently.
We in California may screw a lot of things up, but when it comes to Earthquake Preparedness we are the leader in the world.
Oh, and everyone I know has water and food for at least a week. And flashlights in every room (except for the newbies).
You are probably correct. The area is not attuned to earthquake resistant design as is California. The damage assessment will be pretty easy.....condemn condemn condemn.
There is also an assumption that help can actually get there. That is a big assumption if transportation is disrupted.
Everything I have read says that when that happens - that is it for the Human Race.
Or did I misunderstand?
Now compare that map to a county result map for either the 2000 or 2004 presidential election. Note the overlap between the damage profile and the counties that voted democrat along the Mississippi, particularly if you extend the damage area a little further up and down the river.
Looking at the two maps, can you deny Karl Rove's earthquake machine is behind the proposed earthquake? ]
Link to a link only county election map:
Well, you have to keep some things in mind:
1) It wasn't THAT big of an earthquake; energy release, and general destructive power, goes up 32 times for each whole number of magnitude (it's simple ground motion that goes up 10 times), so a magnitude 7-7.2 earthquake in the LA Basin, which is quite possible, is a whole new ballgame compared to a M 6.7 earthquake.
2) In both the Northridge and the San Fernando earthquake of 1971 a great deal of the energy of the quake was directed into largely unpopulated areas of the hills.
3) Northridge occured at the perfect time of day to minimize deaths.
Right after Northridge a lot of Japanese were shaking their heads at those stupid unprepared Americans and how much destruction they suffered and acting smugly confident and proud about their own readiness.
Of course, precisely one year later they had 6,000 people killed in Kobe.
I saw a lot of fairly uninformed similar smugness over the Bam Iran and San Simeon earthquakes, which were of similar magnitude and fairly close to each other timewise, but of course had vastly different levels of destruction and death tolls; however one was DIRECTLY under a fairly good-sized city, and the other was basically in the middle of nowhere.
We're going to have an earthquake that kills thousands in this country, and likely within the next 20 years.
And a magnitude 235 quake would level the entire earth. Sheesh.
60 percent of buildings in St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn...
it's a start.
Don't get me wrong -- no one can stop the devestation that will happen. It is just we are more prepared than anyone else.
In building design, there are 2 ways to deal with earthquakes: flex or overbuild. The California approach of flex seems to be superior (witness Kobe).
But I am not smug, and thank God, neither are the people in charge of California earthquake preparedness. It still amazes me that every single overpass in California has been strengthened (I saw one in progress -- it is rhebar strung in a spring configuration and then concrete).
If we are smug, it is because we keep working at it -- it is our LACK of smugness that is what makes us prepared. An 8.0 at 2:30 pm in SoCal will kill thousands. An 8.0 in New York, Chicago, Memphis, Pittsburgh, etc. will kill millions.
And what about the week(s) after? How many people in Memphis have an earthquake kit with water, food, radio, etc?
I spend a lot of time on the road and I look at new brick buildings (for example) and say to myself, "won't last 10 seconds in a 5.0."
Totally agree. There's nothing FEMA can do and even if they did, they and the evil Bush administration will still get blamed for it.
You really need the audio on the Blitzer quote. Seeing the words just doesn't do it justice.
Sure seems that way. It would bring the human race close to extinction if not all the way. Humans, especially today, are pretty resourceful. I am sure that some would find a way to survive.
Have to write a whole new Bible then. :)
The historic Mormon Tabernacle (built in the mid-1800's)on Temple Square in Salt Lake City is in the process of being retrofitted to withstand a major earthquake....
Another is the Yellowstone Caldera""
Don't forget the uplift movement going on at Mammoth Lakes.
Surely flags will fly at half-staff in most places south of the border.......
Funny thing.....I've never heard it myself.
Have you ever been through a major earthquake? This was the week after we went through our earthquake that I was looking into it (and I am still living here 5 years later.) I couldn't get in touch with my (small) children and mother for hours and they were about 10 miles from the epicenter- and what I felt at 45 miles away was pretty major (turns out it was deep, so the distance didn't matter as much, but I didn't know in the immediate aftermath). All communications were down (syst overload) and I was not able to reach my then husband or my dad at work, either (dad's work had significant damage, we later found.) I finally found out my kids and parents were safe about 4 hours after it happened. So, yeah, I was just a little traumatized. Obviously, I have weighed the risks and my options and decided I am better off where I am.
I can't even imagine how long it's been since you were in a city.
I'm in a major city every day of the work week. I don't walk around afraid of life.
Lots of other cheerful stuff on that site.
Well I'm already in a crappy mood today, I may as well pay them a visit, too. :-o
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