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The Hammer of Thor
Although most Americans associate earthquakes with Cal-ifornia, the earthquakes that shook the Mississippi valley in southeast Missouri from December 16, 1811, through February 7, 1812, are among the most violent quakes ever to hit the North American continent in recorded history. A quake of equal magnitude would result in great loss of life, estimates show that depending on the day of the week, time of day, and degree of flooding that results, fatalities could number over one hundred thousand, injuries over half a million, and homeless 6.5 million.
The New Madrid Fault Line is not a true fault line as we see out on the west coast. Instead, it reveals itself in the remains of a rift valley, in the plate basement rock, now covered by younger sediments. "Volcanic activity weakens the plates and forms rifts in the plates. The New Madrid Rift, also known as the Reelfoot Rift, formed 500 million years ago. Existing twenty-five miles below the surface, seismologists consider it a "failed" rift, because a success-ful one would have eventually split the plate. Therefore, it is actually a zone of seismic activity." (Stewart and Knox 1995) It is invisible on the surface.
The fault system extends 150 miles southward from Cairo, Illinois through New Madrid and Caruthersville, Missouri, down through Blytheville, Arkansas to Marked Tree, Arkansas. It dips into Kentucky near Fulton and into Tennessee near Reel-foot Lake, and extends southeast to Dyersburg, Tennes-see. It crosses five state lines and crosses the Mississippi River in at least three places.