catastrophic hypochondria
September 29, 2005 7:23 PM   Subscribe

Eyewitness accounts of the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812. The fault is still active, and one day it will let rip again.
posted by dilettante (28 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have always hated eyewitness accounts because so much exaggeration and ambiguity gets rolled together. However these are really nice... the detail draws me in enough to where I can sort of experience it for myself.

Geez, it's just so bizarre that an earthquake of that magnitude is even possible so far from where continental plates meet.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:36 PM on September 29, 2005

Yeahhh...I'm really glad I live in Chicago, built either on landfill left over from when the city burned flat and was pushed into the lake, or on the marshland on the original lakeshore. I'm sure that'll be nice and earthquake-proof when the time comes.
posted by 40 Watt at 7:36 PM on September 29, 2005

Oh, what fun! Natural disaster watching. I'm taking bets on what Fema's doing next. Bet on time location and event (earthquake? flood? terrorists? Taking longshots on giant meteor hitting North Dakota this Christmas!)

This is great after a day of alarmist drugs posts.
posted by es_de_bah at 7:54 PM on September 29, 2005

I want an alarmist post about us running out of internet. PEAK INTERNET EXPECTED BY 2012!!!
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:00 PM on September 29, 2005

All my daydreams are disasters
She's the one I think I love
Rivers burn and then run backwards
For her, that's enough
posted by keswick at 8:12 PM on September 29, 2005

Beautiful post.
posted by mediareport at 8:16 PM on September 29, 2005

keswick wins the fucking internet.
posted by basicchannel at 8:31 PM on September 29, 2005

I remember sometime in the late 80's or early 90's some guy named Browning predicted that The Big (New Madrid) One would hit. Memphis was to have been destroyed, St. Louis hit hard.

Didn't happen.
posted by zardoz at 8:58 PM on September 29, 2005

Iben Browning. "Shortly after the failed prediction, Browning died of a heart attack ... on July 18, 1991."
posted by rolypolyman at 9:00 PM on September 29, 2005

Y'all know that New Madrid is where Rush Limbaugh first climbed out of the trembling silt, right? That's where he made his first radio mark.

It's got a really tall levee -- those of you who don't know levees could go see levees there -- and a great county or municipal history museum with local material culture pertaining to the big shake of almost two centuries ago.

Ah, New Madrid! (And it's not muh-DRID, it's MAD-rid.
posted by gum at 9:01 PM on September 29, 2005

What I find the freakiest are the accounts of feeling the quake on the Eastern Seaboard -- Washington, Norfolk, Charleston, Savannah ...

The USGS narrative says that the "area of perceptibility" was an incredible 5 million sq. km.
posted by dhartung at 9:47 PM on September 29, 2005

I grew up in St. Louis and got to witness the Browning prediction hysteria first hand.

It was the only time we ever had earthquake drills in school. Pure duck-and-cover---dive under the desk! We were advised to stock distilled water and taught about turning off the gas if an earthquake ever struck. Good things to know (at least the last bit), but all this caution only ever happened in 1991.

The day arrived and some of my classmates stayed home. People avoided driving on the elevated two-level Highway 40 downtown. And then nothing happened.

St. Louis has been 50 years past due for an earthquake for all of my 25 years.
posted by tss at 9:49 PM on September 29, 2005

Oh, CA kids have earthquake drills all the time! "DROP!", with no warning; we had to cover our necks with our hands too. I'm curious to know if atomic drills were any different. Any mefites old enough to remember?

And consider that the MO earthquake was MUCH worse than anything that has happened on the west coast......
posted by brujita at 10:02 PM on September 29, 2005

When the Big Quake comes just throw me in the first new fissure you see: the Earthquake God will be happy (and so will you).
posted by davy at 10:34 PM on September 29, 2005

What I find the freakiest are the accounts of feeling the quake on the Eastern Seaboard -- Washington, Norfolk, Charleston, Savannah ...

We felt the Alaska earthquake of 1964 in southern Idaho--the lights were still swinging in the dining room when we went downstairs--and I remember hearing that people felt it as far as Yellowstone.
posted by y2karl at 11:09 PM on September 29, 2005

Upon reflection, I take that back--the time is wrong. I have conflated The Prince William Sound earthquake, which took place around 5:30 in the afternoon, with the Hebgen Lake, Montana quake, which happened just before midnight on August 17th, 1959. That, of course, was very felt in Yellowstone--it started several new geysers. It was a big enough quake but hardly as big as either the New Madrid quake or the one in Alaska.
posted by y2karl at 11:22 PM on September 29, 2005

CA kids have earthquake drills all the time! "DROP!", with no warning; we had to cover our necks with our hands too. I'm curious to know if atomic drills were any different. Any mefites old enough to remember?

AFAIK the "disaster drills" I went thru in the 1970s were just CD drills in disguise.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:47 AM on September 30, 2005

Browning's prediction picked up a boatload of credibility when a 4.1 earthquake hit about 40 miles north of New Madrid a month or two before the predicted date. Strong enough to wake me out of a sound sleep.
posted by wrapper at 5:59 AM on September 30, 2005

I'm 37, so I'm asking those who were kids during the height of the Red Scare in the 50's and 60's.
posted by brujita at 6:16 AM on September 30, 2005

Yeah, I was living in The 'Lou during the earthquake scare. An interesting phenomenon - I've even thought about making an FPP out of it.

Looking back, it seems kinda ridiculous to have gotten so wound up over it. I mean, this Browning guy claimed to be able to predict an earthquake to the day. Umm, you can't actually DO that, can you?
posted by afroblanca at 6:42 AM on September 30, 2005

Also, on the subject of the levees in Cape Girardeau (Rush's home town) - they are SCARY! On one of them, there's this big mural of famous Missourians, and right next to none other than Harry S. Truman and Mark Twain is a certain drug-addled conservative radio personality, his smiling, piglike countenance staring down at you.

There also used to be this really cool old abandoned hotel, but I think think that they've since restored it and now it's all boring and crap.
posted by afroblanca at 6:45 AM on September 30, 2005

This is the Center for Earthquake Reasearch and Information at the University of Memphis if anyone is interested in current New MAD-rid fault information.

brujita: I started elementary school in 1966. I don't remember ever having anything other than fire drills. None of those stick your head between your legs or crawl under the desk things. This was in NOLA though, could have been that the school board spent all the safety drill money on hookers.
posted by Carbolic at 6:48 AM on September 30, 2005

Started elementary school in 1951, yes, they had drills. We went in the halls, away from the windows, because it was in case of atomic bombs, and sat with our backs to the wall.
They didn't do that very long, as it became obvious to the school board (sometime after the kids figured it out) that nobody was likely to survive no matter what they did, and it was upsetting the kids. If you had a basement, you went down there and it was labeled as a fallout shelter, with the listed capacity. Most elementary schools did not have basements, as our area was built on a swamp.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 7:34 AM on September 30, 2005

Walter Jon Williams' The Rift is about a present-day (well, pre-Katrina) 8.9 earthquake on the New Madrid fault. It paints a really, really grim picture. In addition to all the brick-and-mortar buildings collapsing without warning, all the levees break along the Mississippi. Don't forget about the nuclear power plants, neither.

There's a great deal in the book about racism and a black internment camp. It's pretty freaky reading knowing how Katrina came down.
posted by Aknaton at 9:03 AM on September 30, 2005

I'm trying to grasp the destruction that would have happened if this had occurred DURING Katrina. New Orleans would have become New Atlantis?
posted by cleverusername at 9:39 AM on September 30, 2005

Emergency service managers and coordinators at all levels, Federal, State, County and local, have to consider and try to prepare for every imaginable disaster that might occur. We just had a discussion of the potential evacuation needs for St. Louis as a result of flooding and other damage caused by a quake on the New Madrid fault.

Google 'Central US Earthquake Consortium'

All Mefites are welcome to do the calcs for how many buses will be required to evacuate a major city, and what the costs to purchase and maintain them until they're required will be.
posted by X4ster at 10:25 AM on October 1, 2005

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