When these catastrophic earthquakes took place, the central United
States was sparsely inhabited by settlers. Since then, this area has
been developed extensively. Several major cities, including Memphis and
Nashville, Tennessee, Little Rock, Arkansas, St. Louis, Missouri, and
Louisville, Kentucky are within 250 miles of the fault zone. This is
well within the area devastated in 1811 to 1812.
Geologists have thus studied, and continue to study, the New Madrid
Fault Zone. It is clear from their work that a devastating earthquake
could happen again. As the map to the right shows, little earthquakes
happen all the time. In addition, the 1811 to 1812 earthquakes have not
been the only significant events in the New Madrid Fault Zone. An
earthquake in January, 1843 registered a 6.0 magnitude, while on October
31, 1895 a magnitude 6.2 quake struck.
Current estimates suggest a magnitude 6.0 earthquake should occur
before the year 2040. This is within your lifetime! Luckily, it seems
that larger, destructive events like those in the 19th
century will not happen again for several hundred years.
Earthquakes from 1969-1994