Because of Western Kentucky’s proximity to the New Madrid fault line, it’s not a matter of if the area will have a sizable earthquake, but when, according to geological experts and Daviess County Emergency Management Agency (DCEMA).
“It will happen sometime in the future,” said James Howard, a retired geologist. “There is no way at this time to predict whether it will be tomorrow or 150 years.”
According to Howard, much of downtown Owensboro lies in an old channel of the Green River spanning 2,500 ft. If a major seismic event on the New Madrid causes side effects above 5.0 in magnitude, “liquefaction” would occur in the area of the old riverbed.
Howard says a maximum impact could affect an area from Daviess County Middle School to Crabtree Avenue and as far south as 9th Street, making the earth like quicksand.
Daviess County Emergency Management Deputy Director John Clouse said the last major earthquake from the New Madrid seismic zone occurred over a three month period in 1811 and 1812. Clouse said that historical accounts of the events described the Ohio River actually running backward for a period of time and tremors felt as far south as the Gulf of Mexico and as far north as Quebec, Canada.
“It was even said that church bells rang in Philadelphia and Boston,” Clouse said.
Both Howard and Clouse say there is no scientific predictability of seismic activity. Tremors that have been felt in any recent years were actually caused by another nearby fault line in the Wabash Valley seismic zone.
Clouse says there are a few recommendations DCEMA can offer the community. First, Clouse says, families need to have a plan, including a rally point should an event occur during the work and school day. He also recommends an out-of-town relative be a point of contact for all family members to notify and update their statuses.
Clouse says storing an emergency ration of portable, non-perishable food is also a good idea, as well as packing a “go bag” for everyone in the family, including pets, filled with necessary emergency items and copies of important paperwork.
October marks the beginning of earthquake preparedness month. A nationwide awareness event called “ShakeOut!” will take place on Oct. 18 at 10:18 a.m. Great ShakeOut earthquake drills are an opportunity for a community to learn how to best prepare for a quake, including how to secure items in your home as well as how to “drop, cover and hold on.”
Owensboro Police Department will be participating on Oct. 18 and is asking the community to join to educate themselves on earthquake preparedness.