Earthquakes in Midwestern and Eastern United States
About the earthquakes that shook the midwestern and eastern states of America in the early 19th century, the aftershocks felt for thousands of miles.
HISTORY'S BIGGEST EARTHQUAKES
To most people in the 50 States of the U.S. it is common knowledge that earthquakes occur in California. Perhaps it is less commonly known that earthquakes are not unique to California. Earthquakes also occur in other States. For about 2 months a series of the greatest earthquakes in history, with an intensity of 10, the top of the earthquake scale, struck not in California, but in a million-sq.-mi. area of the Midwestern and Eastern U.S.
When: December 16, 1811; January 23, and February 7,1812.
Where: Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Georgia, and South Carolina.
The Loss: One death. Had these 3 big ones occurred in any large city in the 1970s, loss of life would have been 50,000 or more, and property damage would have surpassed a billion dollars.
The Disaster: Residents of New Madrid, Mo., were awakened about 2 A.M. on December 16, 1811, when the trembling earth shook them from their beds. No one had experienced an earthquake; they didn't know what was happening. Trappers and hunters had heard the old Shawnee Indian legend about the great spirit stamping his feet to shake the earth, but no white man believed it. Yet without warning, a million-sq.-mile area shook frighteningly. St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Louisville suffered falling chimneys and shattered windows.
Shocks were felt 500 mi. away at New Orleans; 600 mi. away at Detroit; and 1,100 mi. away at Boston. At least 2,600 separate shocks were counted in Louisville, Ky. The earth rose and fell to form sinks and ridges. Trees split in 2. Lake bottoms raised 15'. Streams changed directions and the Pemisco River was blown up and destroyed. The Mississippi and Ohio rivers flowed backward. In northwestern Tennessee the ground sank to form Reelfoot Lake, 5 mi. wide by 18 mi. long.
Aftermath: Geologists began the 1st serious study of earthquakes and their causes. A new department for that purpose was established at the University of St. Louis.
Tomorrow: Many newcomers to California leave after experiencing their 1st temblor to seek safety in the South and Eastern U.S. No State is exempt from earthquakes, and tomorrow the biggest in history could happen anywhere.
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