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.
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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?