The New Madrid Earthquake That Will Divide The United States In Half

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New Madrid Fault Earthquake ZoneOnce upon a time, North America almost divided along a very deep subsurface rift.  Today, that rift system and the faults associated with it are known as the New Madrid fault zone.  This fault zone is six times larger than the San Andreas fault zone in California and it covers portions of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi.  Back in 1811 and 1812, four of the largest earthquakes in U.S. history struck that area of the country.  The movement of the ground was so powerful that it changed the course of the Mississippi River and it rang church bells in Boston, Massachusetts.  So could such an earthquake (or worse) strike today?  Well, last year the U.S. Geological Survey released a report that warned that the New Madrid fault zone has the “potential for larger and more powerful quakes than previously thought“, and the USGS also admits that the number of significant earthquakes in the middle part of the country has more than quintupled in recent years.  We also know that the U.S. government and large corporations are so concerned about the potential for a major New Madrid earthquake that they have held major exercises that simulate one.  Scientists tell us that it is just a matter of time until another superquake hits the region, and personally I am one of the millions of Americans that believe that we will eventually see a New Madrid earthquake that will divide the United States in half.  That is one of the reasons why I included a New Madrid earthquake in my novel.  But others are skeptical.  They point out that we have not seen a truly devastating earthquake in that region for more than 200 years.  So why be concerned about one now?


What everyone can agree on is that there is an area of significant geological weakness under the New Madrid fault zone.  This area of weakness formed when the continents were breaking up.  The rift that formed did not end up splitting the North American continent at that time, but the area of weakness remains.  The following comes from Wikipedia

The faults responsible for the New Madrid Seismic Zone are embedded in a subsurface geological feature known as the Reelfoot Rift that formed during the breakup of the supercontinent Rodinia in the Neoproterozoic Era (about 750 million years ago). The resulting rift system failed to split the continent, but has remained as an aulacogen (a scar or zone of weakness) deep underground, and its ancient faults appear to have made the Earth’s crust in the New Madrid area mechanically weaker than much of the rest of North America.

This relative weakness is important, because it would allow the relatively small east-west compressive forces associated with the continuing continental drift of the North American plate to reactivate old faults around New Madrid, making the area unusually prone to earthquakes in spite of it being far from the nearest tectonic plate boundary.

And indeed, there have been some awesome earthquakes in this region throughout history.

Back in 1811 and 1812, there were four earthquakes along the New Madrid fault zone there were so immensely powerful that they are still talked about today.

Those earthquakes opened deep fissures in the ground, caused the Mississippi River to run backwards, and were reportedly felt more than 1,000 miles away.  It is said that the stench of fire and brimstone hung in the air for months afterwards.

The most powerful of this series of quakes was on December 16th, 1811.  The following is one description of what happened on that day…

This powerful earthquake was felt widely over the entire eastern United States. People were awakened by the shaking in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Charleston, S.C. Perceptible ground shaking was in the range of one to three minutes depending upon the observer’s location. The ground motions were described as “most alarming and frightening” in places like Nashville, Tenn., and Louisville, Ky. Reports also describe houses and other structures being severely shaken, with many chimneys knocked down. In the epicentral area the ground surface was described as being in great convulsion, with sand and water ejected tens of feet into the air — a process called liquefaction.

But there have also been others times throughout history when we have seen a major earthquake along the New Madrid fault.

For example, according to scientists there is evidence of other superquakes in the distant past

Geological evidence indicates that two such super-earthquakes happened twice in the past 1,200 years: the first some time between 800 and 1000 A.D., and the second between 1300 and 1600 A.D.

And now earthquake activity in the central portion of the nation is increasing again.

As I noted above, the USGS says that the frequency of earthquakes in the central and eastern portions of the United States has more than quintupled in recent years.  And the USGS has now gone so far as to point out the relationship between human activity and the increase in earthquakes.  The following comes from an article done by the U.S. Geological Survey

The number of earthquakes has increased dramatically over the past few years within the central and eastern United States. Nearly 450 earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and larger occurred in the four years from 2010-2013, over 100 per year on average, compared with an average rate of 20 earthquakes per year observed from 1970-2000.

This increase in earthquakes prompts two important questions: Are they natural, or man-made? And what should be done in the future as we address the causes and consequences of these events to reduce associated risks? USGS scientists have been analyzing the changes in the rate of earthquakes as well as the likely causes, and they have some answers.

USGS scientists have found that at some locations the increase in seismicity coincides with the injection of wastewater in deep disposal wells. Much of this wastewater is a byproduct of oil and gas production and is routinely disposed of by injection into wells specifically designed for this purpose.

So what would happen if a major earthquake did strike the New Madrid fault zone?

This is something that scientists have studied.  If a magnitude 7.7 earthquake hit the region today, thousands would die, hundreds of thousands of buildings would be damaged, and the economic losses would be measured in the hundreds of billions of dollars.  The following comes from Wikipedia

In October 2009, a team composed of University of Illinois and Virginia Tech researchers headed by Amr S. Elnashai, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), considered a scenario where all three segments of the New Madrid fault ruptured simultaneously with a total earthquake magnitude of 7.7. The report found that there would be significant damage in the eight states studied – Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee – with the probability of additional damage in states farther from the NMSZ. Tennessee, Arkansas, and Missouri would be most severely impacted, and the cities of Memphis, Tennessee and St. Louis, Missouri would be severely damaged. The report estimated 86,000 casualties, including 3,500 fatalities; 715,000 damaged buildings; and 7.2 million people displaced, with 2 million of those seeking shelter, primarily due to the lack of utility services. Direct economic losses, according to the report, would be at least $300 billion.

But remember, that study only considered a magnitude 7.7 earthquake.

If we had an earthquake of magnitude 8 or magnitude 9, we could be talking about an earthquake many, many times more powerful.

It is also important to note that there are 15 nuclear reactors along the New Madrid fault zone.  In the event of a major New Madrid earthquake, we could be looking at Fukushima times 15.

Of course most Americans are completely oblivious to all of this.  In fact, most Americans don’t even know what the New Madrid fault zone is or where it is located.

But there are people in the government that are very aware of this threat.  In fact, the federal government considered it important enough to hold a major five day simulation known as “National Level Exercise 11” just a few years ago…

In May, the federal government simulated an earthquake so massive, it killed 100,000 Midwesterners instantly, and forced more than 7 million people out of their homes. At the time, National Level Exercise 11 went largely unnoticed; the scenario seemed too far-fetched — states like Illinois and Missouri are in the middle of a tectonic plate, not at the edge of one. A major quake happens there once every several generations.

National Level Exercise 11, or NLE 11, was, in essence, a replay of a disaster that happened 200 years earlier. On Dec. 16, 1811, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake hit the New Madrid fault line, which lies on the border region of Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. It’s by far the largest earthquake ever to strike the United States east of the Rockies. Up to 129,000 square kilometers [50,000 square miles] were hit with “raised or sunken lands, fissures, sinks, sand blows, and large landslides,” according to the U.S. Geological Service. “Huge waves on the Mississippi River overwhelmed many boats and washed others high onto the shore. High banks caved and collapsed into the river; sand bars and points of islands gave way; whole islands disappeared.” People as far away as New York City were awakened by the shaking.

More quakes, of a similar size, followed. But the loss of life was minimal: Not too many people lived in the area at the time. Today, there are more than 15 million people living in the quake zone. If a similar quake hit, “7.2 million people could be displaced, with 2 million seeking temporary shelter” in the first three days, FEMA Associate Adminsitrator William Carwile told a Congressional panel in 2010. “Direct economic losses for the eight states could total nearly $300 billion, while indirect losses at least twice that amount.”

And major corporations are also concerned about what could happen.

For example, in a previous article I noted that Wal-Mart had “participated in an exercise” that simulated a major earthquake in the New Madrid fault zone…

Buried in a Wall Street Journal article from about a week ago was a startling piece of information.  According to a Wal-Mart executive, Wal-Mart “participated in an exercise to prepare for an earthquake on the New Madrid fault line” earlier this summer.

Nobody knows when it is going to happen.

But this is a real threat.

And if we do see a magnitude 9.0 earthquake or greater, we could be talking about a continent changing event.

So what do you think about the possibility of a major earthquake in the New Madrid fault zone?  Please feel free to add to the discussion by posting a comment below…

  • stealthman5

    The next 9.0 New Madrid earthquake will NOT divide America in half. Yes, it will demolish St. Louis and Memphis and large chunks of Cincinnati, but it won’t divide America in half. Oh it would likely change the course of the Mississippi River too in a big way. That has happened before in the early 1800s as you well know

    • stealthman5

      I didn’t mention Louisville, Kentucky. Yes it would demolish Louisville too.

      • LOL (Love of Louisville)

      • Brian Thompson

        It would appear to me that this level of destruction could fairly be described as a division of our nation.

    • Fr.Duffy Fighting 69th

      If the quake is big enough it potentially could cause the Great Lakes to drain down the Mississippi River Valley. Resulting in a massive division miles wide.

      • Wow, yea, Wow….

        La, la lala ,la la, live for today….la la lala la la live for today…..

    • Diana Smith

      Technically, the split would most likely come from a shift in the sandy sediments that make up the basin around the river. If those liquified and were washed to the sea, the land would be significantly lower and the Gulf waters could flood in.

    • Linda

      Memphis is on a rocky bluff and for many years all buildings have been built on earthquake rockers. We will only know if they work when the next earthquakes hits. Nonconnah Creek was filled by landfill. THEN, a huge mall and subdivision was built over the landfill. So, those will be some of the first areas to collapse.

  • K

    It can be the New Madrid, or the Yellowstone volcano, or the West Coast. or even under certain circumstances, the East Coast. My simple rule, do not live right on top of the problem area. After that just recognise, life is not safe. I take what steps, I reasonably can. The rest I leave with the Lord.

    • ItIsWell

      Very well said

    • Ruth Crawford -Mitchell

      I agree

  • Fr.Duffy Fighting 69th

    It is sobering to reflect on how many nuclear power plants are in the area of potential destruction.

    • Kim

      That scares me as well. Fukushima has re-entered the conscience in the past few days and the news is not good. 6000% increase in cancers among populations around the site and 70x radiation leaks and so on. It’s as mess. It is the biggest threat to the world as we know it, today.

      • Brian Thompson

        Does anybody remember how Chernobyl was covered? It was wall-to-wall.. Spooky thinking how there’s hardly been a word by that tells you how bad it really is.

        • Kim

          My theory is that they know it’s bad and they know nothing can be done so let’s just not bring it up.

          • Actually, they should have flooded the place with boron to halt the reaction as the first part of the solution.

            They haven’t even bothered.

            It’s like they’re leaving it WIDE OPEN to make sure that if they have to suffer, the rest of the world will have to as well.

            NOBODY KNOWS how much radiation has been constantly pumped into the environment over the last few years from that “glorified kettle.”

            Einstein himself, when asked about nuclear power, said “Well, it’s a hell of a way to boil water.” (Paraphrased.)

          • Kim

            From what I know, they couldn’t do that because of the instability of the structures. They biggest problem in the mass of spent fuel rods in structure 4. Another issue is that they don’t know exactly where the three melted cores are. Presumably, theses melted cores are out of containment, deep in the earth, fissioning. There is another theory that the coruim exploded and is fissioning in the soil at ground level.

            But, regardless of what they should have done, at this point nothing can be done. Fixing Fukushima is out of the realm of knowledge that any group or individual possesses. At this point we cannot contain the radiation.

      • Fr.Duffy Fighting 69th

        Biggest threat…and not reported at all. Nor addressed by the world community.

      • Carlos J Encarnacion

        There should be a concerted effort by various countries to fix and eliminate that threat, same thing with Chernobyl. Fukushima is a more immediate threat and with the knowledge gained the Chernobyl problem and any that comes after that should be an easy thing.

        • Kim

          There will be no concerted effort because knowledge of how to fix this does not exist in any nation, group or among any individual(s).

          • Carlos J Encarnacion

            exactly, nothing we know now we knew before, but we experimented

            and learned, that is the point, can’t live life being negative and pessimistic, let’s be proactive. There are drones used to kill people, drones or RPV’s can be remotely controlled from very far and do the work that is too lethal for human presence. Even current heavy machines can be retro-fitted as RPV’s to do the job.

    • Carlos J Encarnacion

      There is a push by a group of scientists trying to replace conventional nuke plants with thorium reactors, wayyyy safer than current reactors and possibly a way to get rid of current nuclear waste. See The Thorium Dream on youtube. The country that goes on the fastbreak on thorium will have a huge advantage over the others in terms of safe, clean nuclear energy. Shouldn’t the US be the first?

      • Fr.Duffy Fighting 69th

        That is decades away. The danger from the New Madrid is Clear and Present.

    • Cornelia Feemster

      I agree, it is beyond my comprehension why they have built these nuclear powerplants right where it s at.(i still don t understand why we even have them anymore after all the desasters we ve had in the world) (we could have already
      accellerated supplying sun,wind and other safer energy producing systems to these areas.
      It s sad to see that nobody in St Louis seems to understand
      In what kind of dangerzone we live in (we also have an underground fire burning toward a radioactive WW2 trashsite
      That has been smoldering for over a year now ) and I want to move away from here but don t know how and where to.
      Does anyone out there have a clue how to do this with a low

      • Fr.Duffy Fighting 69th

        Cornelia. They knew what they were doing when they built those plants. I believe they want nuclear disaster. as far as moving. I don’t think anyplace is safe anymore. Just trust in Jesus.

  • ProclaimingGodsTruth

    The Lord says in Matt 24:7, there will be EQ’s in divers places. We are seeing these now all over and whether or not the NMSZ kicks off a big one, I think is almost secondary to the other real life threats we and the West are facing right now. War with ISIS and/or war with Russia.

    • naked swimmer

      The increase in earthquakes is because of the redistribution of weight (fracking/oil removal, heavy buildings, etc.) and because of the intense vibrations from all of the underground nuclear tests.

    • n s

      Also Matthew 24:7 doesn’t talk about an increase in earthquakes, it just says there’ll be earthquakes, like there’s always been (sorry for commenting twice).

      • ProclaimingGodsTruth

        The EQs are rising and increasing similar to labor pains for a pregnant woman. This is the Lord’s descriptive term for how things will go before His return. We are seeing these increases now – wars, rumors, persecutions, false prophets and Christs, deception, etc.

  • DJohn1

    The basic problem is we live on unstable grounds. Look at the mountain ranges all over the country. They were once volcanoes.
    Astronomers have remotely examined other planets. They find that we have one of the thinnest crusts of any planet in the Solar System.
    That spells a very active geology.
    I have to wonder how much our own activities contribute to this unstable condition.
    The oil mining industry comes to mind. All those explosives have to have to be having some effect on the surface of the planet. The vibration alone might break loose something further down.
    We currently have four lane highways all over this country running vehicles up to or above ten tons or more at speeds of 55-80 miles an hour. The vibrations alone might upset some delicate balances below ground.
    Acid rain and sudden holes in the ground contribute also.
    Limestone melts, the Earth comes crushing down to take its place. There are numerous huge caves under the surface. One river runs the entire length of the country between the lakes and emptying on the surface in the Gulf in Florida.
    The Earth itself has huge wells of water in reserve under the surface. Ask any miner about sudden floods of shafts underground. It is one of the dangers of the job.
    Under that thin crust is a mantle of liquid lava. So basically we are floating on top of lava that might be 400 degrees fahrenheit up to 10,000 degrees further down in the ground.
    The time bomb of our oceans is that water is extremely explosive under pressure and high heat. So if you get a body of water underneath a volcano it may just blow it into orbit, or whatever is left of that island after the explosion. That explosion may be so forceful as to change the geology of the entire planet.
    I find that we ought to name the planet after the catastrophes we have survived in the past. We are at least 200,000 years old as a species, yet a lot of that time was spent in primitive conditions with no technology that we know about. Periodic massive catastrophes could go a long way to figuring out why that is so.
    It isn’t just geology. We have also survived several rather large impacts from space. To this day, we have several large asteroids in comet like orbits that bring them past the Earth in towards Venus and then out towards Mars. It is only a matter of time before this delicate balance is destroyed and one of these asteroids hits the planet dead on. If it comes in at the right angle it will be relatively intact.
    When it hits it will be a massive ball of lava traveling at 18,000-40,000 miles an hour. Our Earth rotates at 18,000 miles per hour in its day. SO if it hit contrary to the spin of the Earth it would automatically pick up approximately 5 miles per second in velocity. Add that to its own velocity around the Sun and we are in deep trouble.
    The result would be more than 100 Nuclear Bombs going off all at once in one small area of the planet. That could set off all kinds of earthquakes, volcanoes, and tidal waves if it hits an ocean.

  • Undecider

    I have a more immediate problem. It’s called the IRS.

  • Wow, yea, Wow….

    The Sky Is Falling! Run for the Hills! Run for the Hills!!!!!

    • lindajoyadams

      Doesn’t the Bible say that is what we are to do! And don’t stop to get anything!

      • Diana Smith

        And pray it doesn’t happen in the wintertime! That’s why I firmly believe in watching current events and being ready to move in a timely fashion.

  • Hoha Tatt

    I have pots and pans hanging from the celing in my kitchen. Boy those pots and pans shure will do some swaying.

  • Hoha Tatt

    Can any one tell me how those pots and pans will move in that huge earthquake.

    • Diana Smith

      Depends on how the earthquake manifests. Side to side action will result in swinging, but an up and down wave action or a sudden slip/lift fault could see them jump off their hooks and bean you on the head!
      Either install hooks that fasten shut,like a carabiner does, or remove them.

  • Robert

    There is a novel regarding the New Madrid giving way but the title escapes me. The author payed particular attention to the Hugh petrol-chemical industry along the Big Muddy and the millions of tons of waste that would produce a toxic waste dump in many states as well as the Gulf of Mexico. Waste that can never be cleaned up. The nuc plants would shut down but it would only take one. I was glad to relocate west where the prevailing winds offer some protection. The New Madrid could easily surpass the San Andreas for economic and environmental danger and catastrophic results. Meanwhile, wasn’t it just a thrill to see the Oscars? We are beyond help. Actually I did not watch, I had some paint drying that I watched. More interesting.

    • Dave from San Antonio

      I know what you mean about the Oscars…took a lawn chair out…to watch my grass grow…and watch the street lights come on.

    • Midwestgirl

      I don’t know if it’s the novel you’re thinking of, but there was one published in about 1998 (?) by Peter Hernon called “8.4.” I don’t remember all the details, but I believe it was similar to what you are describing. Certainly scary!

      And what’s up with the nearly weekly EQs in northern OK and southern KS? Fracking, maybe? Whatever the cause, it’s a worry. For the past hundred+ years they’ve had no EQs strong enough to feel (everywhere has micro quakes), but now folks down there are having to EQ-proof their houses.

  • donna

    i believe this was a trance prediction by Edgar cayce.

  • mg

    What about the Houston, Texas area? Will we be seeing areas here submerged into the gulf? I read that could happen. What do you think? concerned.

  • Wee Willie Wonkie

    My family & I went thru the Canterbury Earthquakes in New Zealand circa 2010 & 2011. As bad as those were and still are, things would have been much worse had it not been for preparedness and building code changes for structural EQ strengthening. The Alpine Fault could go an any moment, and super-volcano Taupo is overdue, just like Yellowstone.
    In the USA, there are no EQ structural codes except in California, with corners reinforced and cribbing installed.
    Have any of the nuclear powerplants been EQ-modified? Has anything been retrofitted with flexible cooling manifolds, reactors mounted on shock absorbers, and a back-up generator for plant management & cooling operations???

    • Diana Smith

      A few.

  • Kim

    That is crazy! I had heard of the New Madrid fault line but I didnt know earthquakes occurred along there in the 1800s.

    I read the USGS report when it came out. Some folks commented at Zero Hedge that the tremors that are occurring from fracking operations are a good thing- as it releases pent up pressure. I highly doubt that it is the case. I would be very nervous if I were living anywhere near that fault line.

    The bible certainly foretells that in the last days earthquakes would occur in one place after another all over the world. We are definitely seeing that fulfillment in our lifetime, aren’t we. I’ve wondered myself how many of these big quakes we experience are a result of human activity, ie building huge, heavy mega cities with concentrated populations along fault lines, excavating and mining operations et cetera. Our greed will be our downfall.

    • Diana Smith

      Just remember, the Bible also states that if we don’t testify of God, then the Earth will, in the voice of whirlwinds (tornados), tempests (hurricanes) and earthquakes. Our nation is leaving God behind, vilifying Christianity and calling evil good. No wonder the earth is in commotion.

      • Kim

        I don’t understand your comment.

      • Ruth Crawford -Mitchell

        I agree with you whole heartedly, my friend.

    • Ruth Crawford -Mitchell

      It’s irrelevant what’s causing, or will cause the earthquakes. The Bible has foretold of these things coming to pass in the last days. There isn’t anything anyone can do about it, except draw close to God, read the Bible, and live each day as it comes to it’s fullest. Living in fear is not living at all, trusting in God is the only real escape.

  • RageHard84

    Scary! I need to complete preparation for the next earthquake.

  • Nancy636

    This makes me almost nauseous. We moved here in 2005, 40 miles north St. Louis. Just need to remember God is in charge. I will concentrate on that…

    • Ruth Crawford -Mitchell


    • C M C D

      Nancy, I’m about 35-40 miles west of STL but we are moving north soon (Lincoln county).

  • Nancy636

    Does all these quakes and changing weather have anything to do with the fictitious Planet X? That would explain a heck of a lot. I am starting to doubt the claims it is not real. After strenuous research for many months. I think we are being lied to.

  • John Germain

    So if this area has a 7 to 9 earthquake wouldn’t that set off the super volcano also predicted in Yellowstone? I read a lot about each but NO articles that ever tie these two dangers together, why?

    • Diana Smith

      There are no connecting fault lines between Yellowstone and the New Madrid. However, sufficient movement of the earth’s crust could cause some of the Yellowstone system to start moving. It would bear watching.

  • Illini Warrior

    It doesn’t show on the map …. but I can guarantee there’ll be some damage as far north as the Chicago area ….

    We have felt the small Madrid tremors in the past …. the Big One will collapse some of crap buildings that dot the area ….

  • Richard Sievert

    The last place I want to be is underground when the lava comes up!

  • Fr.Duffy Fighting 69th

    How many in the area of potential destruction of the New Madrid Fault?

  • nekksys

    I live and work in the New Madrid fault zone. I can remember back in the mid ’80s when a temblor struck. Minor thing by normal standards; 2.5-3.5 Richter. Due to the amount of sand in the soil here, the dirt tends to go into liquifaction and literally behaves like water. That’s why such a small temblor felt like riding an out-of-balance washing machine.

    Should a massive quake strike this area, it won’t create a rift; it will create a mass upheaval. Think about it. In the Rocky Mountain subduction zone, the pressure is coming from the movement of the Pacific plate toward the North American plate and vice versa. The New Madrid fault doesn’t yet have a subduction zone defined. Due to the lack of clear subduction, when a quake strikes we will see huge upheavals and sand plumes just as were seen in the 1811-1812 quake. The resultant upward shift in the 1811-1812 quake caused the Mississippi river to flow backward for 3 days. When it was able to flow southward again, the river’s course changed since the old channel was now above the original plane.

    When this next major quake comes, there will be mass casualties like we’ve never seen before, cities will be flattened, vast areas of flooding and major changes to the landscapes topography.

    Or not… Just sayin’…

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  • Guest


  • Fred762

    Well, that s@rews up the globall warming/fracking is bad crowd now does it not. ;-)

  • armond vonsande

    Is it a possibility that the rift was” welded” solid down in the gulf by the impacter that killed the dinasours ? I believe that if we want to predict the opening of the rift seismic activity under the gulf may be a good place to start studying … the tear that was left appears to thin out then stop at the great lakes… im no scientist but is this has been my theory for many years .ive never realy studied or dug too deeply into the idea…any thoughts ? Im open to sarcasm or what ever.