Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Did You Feel the Shaking?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Did You Feel the Shaking?

Yeah, I'm late in talking about this morning's earthquake off the New Madrid Fault. It hit at 4:37 this morning, but apparently the epicenter was 230 miles away from Chicago, so it must've been weakened considerably by the time it got here. I don't doubt that it would've been noticeable for the people who are awake, but I'd expect mostly light sleepers would've been roused in Chicago. There are people in town who claim to have been wakened by the quake, and I don't doubt them. A 5.2 is certainly large enough to wake someone up who was closer to the epicenter. An aftershock of 4.6--not huge, but no slouch--came in later this morning at 10:15.

More than a dozen years, I experienced a quake at about the same time of day that was truly worthy of waking up over. The Northridge quake in January 1994 was a 6.7--it doesn't necessarily sound like a lot more, but it was. Each number on the Richter scale is twice as powerful as the one beneath it. A 6 is twice as powerful as a 5. We lived in L.A. at the time. I woke up after the shaking started, and I believed we were going to die. We didn't, and our apartment wasn't damaged very much, especially compared to those of other people we knew, but it was plenty traumatic enough.

The New Madrid fault, which today's earthquake was close to, is a monster waiting to strike again. It's responsible for the largest couple of quakes ever recorded in the continental United States. Back in the winter of 1811-1812, magnitude-8 quakes--or even as many as five--hit between December and February. It's said that the Mississippi River flowed backward for a time. The area was sparsely populated at the time, so it's not as well-known as it might be. We're almost two hundred years away from this event. That's a long time for energy in the fault to build up. Earthquake faults don't stay inactive for everywhere. I'm just saying.


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