February is Earthquake Awareness Month in the United States, and although most Illinois residents take great pains to be prepared for tornadoes, floods and blizzards, seismic activity is frequently measured in the state as well.
According to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois has experienced at least 13 earthquakes since Sept. 2017, when the southeastern portion of the state experienced a 3.8 magnitude quake.
With the New Madrid and Wabash Valley faults potentially posing a threat of earthquakes in Illinois, the agency says that it is promoting earthquake preparedness throughout this month.
“While some hazards such as storms, tornadoes and floods can be forecasted in order to provide advance noticed to residents in an area of danger, other hazards such as earthquakes cannot be predicted,” said IEMA Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau. “Earthquakes can happen anywhere and at any time, including while you are at work, at home or on vacation. Creating an environment of education, awareness and preparedness can save lives.”
The most significant earthquakes in Illinois history occurred along the New Madrid Seismic Zone in 1811 and 1812. The zone, located near the borders of Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee frequently experiences small tremors, but on Dec. 16, 1811, a powerful quake estimated between 7.2 and 8.2 on the Richter Scale occurred along the fault line. Another aftershock, measured at 7.4, occurred on the same day.
Two more quakes were reported in early 1812, with the February earthquake destroying the town of New Madrid and severely damaging structures in St. Louis.
The earthquakes were so strong that they were felt in New York City and in Washington, D.C.
The IEMA says that a similar earthquake, were it to occur today, would have a massive impact on the residents of the Midwest. To help promote earthquake preparedness, the agency released a series of videos to help residents prepare for an earthquake, and to help guide their actions if a quake were to strike.