That doesn't change the fact that a mega earthquake nearby is a very real possibility. For that, you can thank the New Madrid Seismic Zone, a gigantic fault line that produced an earthquake in 1811 that would have killed significantly more people than the far more famous San Francisco earthquake of 1906, if only there were more people in the area to kill at the time.
So what does that mean for people in the New Madrid area today? What with there being buildings and all manner of other big city trappings there now, the death and destruction would surely be far more significant, right? That is approximately 50 percent true. The destruction would be off the charts, but I'll get to that momentarily. For now, let's talk about death.
Here's what should be mildly comforting news for people in the region (provided your friendly neighborhood wastewater disposal wells don't multiply the damage exponentially) -- a FEMA report from 2009 states that approximately 650 people would be killed in the event of a 7.7-magnitude quake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. No, that doesn't mean the 86,000 casualties I mentioned in the Oklahoma article was a lie, it's just that casualties aren't necessarily deaths. In fact, of those thousands of casualties, approximately 75 percent would consist of minor injuries only.
So, that part is great. Chances are you'll live through a New Madrid quake if one happens while you're around. Whether you'd want to, though, is another story. As I mentioned before, death totals would be relatively small. Damage estimates are a different story. For the eight states that would be most impacted, the total damage is nearly $300 billion. That includes 715,000 buildings, which, considering this is the Midwest we're talking about, has to be just about all of them.
Do we even use those things anymore?