The Japanese earthquake boggles the mind, doesn’t it? It’s as if a mega-disaster movie came to life. It’s hard to comprehend all of the destruction and loss. My heart truly goes out to those people. They’ll be dealing with the after-effects of this for years and years and years.
We used to live close to the New Madrid Fault, and believe me, mega-earthquakes were a consideration. The most powerful earthquake the United States has ever experienced happened along that fault line in 1811-1812, with aftershocks occurring for two years after the “big one,” which is estimated to have been at least an 8.0. The initial, powerful shocks lasted for three months and caused church bells to ring as far away as Boston. The Mississippi River ran backward for a time and changed course due to the quake. Few people lived in the area at the time, and some settlers who did actually moved away. A whole town was destroyed. Can’t say that I blame them for moving. I was kind of relieved to get away from there myself.
Since earthquakes tend to occur again and again with some regularity on or near the same fault lines, earthquake scientists, of whom there are plenty at the University of Memphis’ Earthquake Center, warn that another “big one” is coming, and they’re trying their darndest to get everyone prepared.
For one thing, we used to have earthquake drills in the schools about four times a year. The highway department got busy reinforcing the bridges and overpasses. When you drive under an overpass, you’ll see these huge chains welded into place to “catch” the overpass if it falls. The bridges over the Mississippi have been reinforced to survive some pretty serious shaking. Some old buildings, including a huge hospital, have been torn down because they would not survive a quake. New schools are built to earthquake standards. Disaster supply lists are distributed. People are warned to have at least enough food and water to last 72 hours, etc. People are shown and reminded constantly about how to turn off the natural gas supply to their homes. We were told to leave a wrench on the gas meter so we could grab it and turn off the gas, and on and on.
There are small, unfelt, tremors there every day; the only evidence left behind are pictures hanging askew on the walls. When we first moved there, I couldn’t understand why the pictures were always crooked. I only realized much later what was going on. Somehow, I didn’t expect earth movements in the middle of the country.
Lately, earthquake studies seem to show a link between ruptures along a fault causing ruptures along another fault. We had a “big one” in Chile that may or may not be related to the one in Japan. Of course, both countries are situated along the ring of fire and not smack-dab in the middle of a plate like the New Madrid is. But still, it worries me a little bit. I worry about my friends back in Tennessee, and I worry about our country as well. We just don’t need another mega-disaster. The hurricanes have been bad enough. We haven’t had time to recover from those yet. No earthquakes, please.