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Is Kentucky in line for another big earthquake?

By: Melissa Etezadi Email
By: Melissa Etezadi Email

February 7th,2012 marks the 200th anniversary of one of the largest earthquakes in North America, outside of Alaska.

"When suddenly the earth shakes, it catches peoples attention," explains Mike Lynch, communications for the University of Kentucky Geology Department. "What a lot of people don't know is that most of the earthquakes that have been felt in Kentucky have been actually outside of Kentucky."

With today being the 200th anniversary of the New Madrid Seismic Zone,
schools across the Midwest, including Kentucky, took part in earthquake drills. "For two hundred years, we have not had an earthquake of that size. That earthquake shook for days, thousands of aftershocks lasted through late 1811 to 1812."

Geologist say Kentucky experiences roughly 40 earthquakes a year, however, none are ever felt. "Today, there was a small 2.5 magnitude quake in New Madrid," explains Lynch, "but only the instruments could pick up the waves, it was that small. Obviously, nothing that compares to what happened two centuries ago."

As geologist study the fault closely they say they do not expect another big quake for a few hundred years. "We have a better idea of how often they might occur and how large modern earthquakes might be. We believe earthquakes of that size on average only happen every 500 to 1000 years."

The New Madrid Seismic Zone is located along the Mississippi River in Northeastern Arkansas, Southeastern Missouri, Northwestern Tennessee and Western Kentucky.

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