The Herald Bulletin

May 18, 2013

EMA: Possibility of earthquake not as rare as perceived

Madison County could feel shocks from New Madrid fault line

By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — We’re in Central Indiana, so the possibility of a major earthquake ravaging the area is pretty remote, right?

It might not be as unlikely as you think.

Below Southern Indiana is the active and menacing New Madrid fault line, which meanders throughout the Midwest. While major earthquakes in the area are rare, geologists expect a quake to shock the fault line within the next 50 years. And even if Indiana isn’t directly affected by the quake, there could be indirect consequences.

Todd Harmeson, public information officer for Madison County Emergency Management Agency, said shakes from far away can still register in the Indianapolis area and can damage roads, homes and overpasses. EMA, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, is charged with informing and educating the public about potential hazards and making sure they’re prepared for the worst.

Harmeson said some of the worst damage can result from seemingly harmless vibrations, which can bring heavy objects crashing to the floor.

“Things like books on shelves, entertainment centers, pictures or anything else that’s on the wall is a hazard. The best thing to do is to have those things anchored to the wall somehow,” Harmeson said.

He also encouraged families to be familiar with how to turn off utilities in their home in case of an emergency, and to have a disaster supply kit available.

Harmeson also said New Madrid has smaller faults that branch out from the main fault, and those have caused minor earthquakes throughout the region in the past. He said although the chances of a major earthquake are low, they’re about the same as other disasters the public might perceive as more common.

“When you think about something big happening in the next 50 years, and compare it to the probability of an F-5 tornado or a massive flood, they’re probably about the same,” Harmeson said.

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