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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Officials discuss quake preparedness

Friday, February 9, 2007

Jim Palmer, a geologist with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources
NEW MADRID - As home to one of the most active seismic areas in the United States with some 200 small earthquakes shaking the region annually, New Madrid County residents are well aware of the potential for a major catastrophe. Thursday evening some three dozen individuals learned how to better prepare in the event of major earthquake and how federal, state and local agencies will respond.

Geologist Jim Palmer of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Division of Geology and Land Survey provided a geology lesson, explaining the cause of earthquakes and the impact soils can have on the ensuing devastation.

"Here the crust is old and dense and transmits seismic waves further," said Palmer. Because the seismic waves will travel further, an earthquake would impact a multi-state region, he said.

According to Palmer, scientists believe within any 50-year window there is a one in 10 chance for a reoccurrence of a major earthquake along the New Madrid fault.

By looking at the soils, the history of a region and the type of structures, efforts can be made to prepare for an earthquake and prevent problems, Palmer said. He pointed out most modern residential structures are reinforced providing better protection than masonry structures typical of cities.

Jim Wilkinson with the Central United States Earthquake Consortium agreed with Palmer that some of the greatest challenges are presented by structures in the city. However, Wilkinson also noted because of the age of Interstate 55, the transportation system would not likely withstand a major quake.

He estimated the losses from a major Midwest earthquake would be far greater than what the nation experienced from any other disaster. The impact because of the gas lines and the nation's power grid going through the Midwest would be felt throughout the United States, Wilkinson added.

Sue Evers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Jamie Koehler of the Cape Girardeau Chapter of the American Red Cross each stressed the need for individuals to be prepared through mitigation efforts, such as securing bookcases, and creating emergency kits, with items such as blankets, food, water, etc.

"Each of us has a responsibility to prepare to the greatest extent we can," said Evers.

However, should an earthquake occur, Steve Besemer of the State Emergency management agency assured the audience the state would not wait for a call for help, instead an automatic response plan is being developed.

Also according to Sen. Rob Mayer, who is a member of the Missouri Seismic Commission, a catastrophic Insurance bill for Missouri is being proposed. The bill would ensure all residents have coverage should a catastrophic earthquake occur.

Rather than wait for such a bill, which he favors, Mike Woolbright, the chief market conduct specialist for the Missouri Department of Insurance, recommended individuals review their insurance policies now. He pointed out only about half of the residents in New Madrid, Mississippi and Pemiscot counties have earthquake coverage.

Local steps have been take to ensure the safety of residents said New Madrid City Emergency Management Director Buddy Mowery including the installation of warning systems. He encouraged the public to do their part by getting further training through various programs available locally.