Earthquake drill occurring Thursday morning prepares Missourians for New Madrid potential

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MISSOURI- The Missouri State Emergency Management Agency will be conducting a statewide earthquake drill Thursday at 10:21 a.m.

The reason for the “ShakeOut” drill is to be prepared for potential earthquakes coming from the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Missouri is one of 14 states that could be impacted by the New Madrid fault zone.

“The devastating Haiti earthquake that left more than 50,000 homeless last month is a reminder of the destructive force of catastrophic earthquakes and that quakes strike without warning,” State Emergency Management Agency Director Jim Remillard said. “Preparedness prior to an earthquake of any size is critical to staying safe. Participating in the ShakeOut drill and practicing now prepares children and adults alike for what to do when shaking starts.”

At 10:21 a.m., those participating in the “ShakeOut” drill will:

  • DROP to your hands and knees;
  • COVER your head and neck with your hands and arms under a table or desk if you can; and
  • HOLD ON until the shaking stops.

As of early Thursday morning, Missourians could still register for the “ShakeOut” drill.

According to a press release, the New Madrid zone is one of the most active earthquake zones in the country, averaging more than 200 small quakes per year. In the early 1800s, this zone produced some of the largest earthquakes in U.S. history. The earthquake caused 125 miles of river bluffs to collapse along the Mississippi and jets of sand to spout from the ground, along with other damage to homes and landscapes across 232,000 square miles.

Eyewitnesses said parts of the Mississippi River even ran backward for a time.

According to a 2019 report from the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration, earthquake insurance coverage dropped to only 14% of homes in the New Madrid area in 2018. In 2000, 60% of homes were covered.

Saint Louis University seismologist Robert Herrmann said Missouri has been spared from major earthquakes in recent years, lulling concerns over possible tremblers. But Hermann said he “would recommend that they still worry about earthquakes.”

“The problems that are here are the same problems that are in California,” Herrmann said. “But earthquake insurance is expensive, and earthquake insurance doesn’t cover everything.”

According to the agency, the Missouri report points to a recent risk assessment that predicted total economic losses of $300 billion if a similarly strong earthquake hits again – the highest total economic loss of any natural disaster in U.S. history.

Insured homes in the region could face as much as $120 billion in damages, and uninsured homes could face another $100 million.

The U.S. Geological Survey predicts there’s a 7% to 10% chance that an earthquake of that intensity could happen again in the next 50 years. There’s a 25% to 40% likelihood that a magnitude six earthquake or greater hits.

Another major earthquake in this area would be felt not only in Missouri but throughout the Midwest and would damage buildings and infrastructure in much of southern and eastern Missouri, including the St. Louis area.

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