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What’s the Possibility of an Earthquake in Mississippi and How Should the State Prepare?

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 14 Mar 2011 05:19pm | comments

Possibly tens of thousands of people have died following last week’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. In Mississippi It's been almost 200 years since a major earthquake hit the state. But as MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports a major seismic event could occur in or near the state at any time.

The massive earthquake that hit Japan left much of the country in ruins with blackouts, fires and giant tsunamis. While this quake is certainly horrific Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Womack says there is no real way to know how different it is from the great quake of 1811.

"We do know that the shake was bad enough that it caused the Mississippi to run backward for a period, created a large lake, Reelfoot Lake. It was very significant but there were very few people that lived in the region. And if it was to happen today estimates are that a lot of the major bridges across the Mississippi would be damaged or destroyed and certainly we'd have a lot of widespread power and water and sewer outages."

Experts say a strong series of earthquakes along the New Madrid Seismic Zone that runs just northwest of Mississippi was to blame. But Michael Bograd, State Geologist with the Department of Environmental Quality says there have been many earthquakes centered within Mississippi from all parts of the state. He says the strongest earthquake with its epicenter in Mississippi occurred in 1931 near Batesville, with a magnitude of 4.7.

"That's the intensity in which you can start having damage such as cracked brick walls, unstable furniture toppled over. chimneys twisted."

If a similar earthquake were to happen in Mississippi today Womack says there would be major concerns.

"What we're very concerned about is that people won’t know what's going on. They won’t take the advice of dropping to the floor getting under a table because most of your injuries are things falling on you."

MEMA will ask citizens to participate in a10 state earthquake drill next month. Lawayne Childrey MPB News. 

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