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When (and how bad) were the worst earthquakes ever in Louisiana?

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Who remembers our last earthquake? Off the top of your head, can you remember when the floor shook (albeit slightly), dishes shook on shelves and dogs barked (they always do)?

Uh… earlier this year

Well, it wasn’t that long ago, actually. It was in the Blanchard area. As KEEL reported in April of this year:

“There was an earthquake in our area while you were sleeping. The USGS says the earthquake measured 3.1 on the Richter scale and is a very mild earthquake. It happened around 2:30 a.m. Thursday.”

Sure, there seems to be more earthquakes than usual, for example, over the past five years or so. But most experts put it back to the subtle twists of New Madrid’s fault or even cracking.

History of the Louisiana earthquake

But what about the history of earthquakes in our state. Could Louisiana, located south of the main fault line from east to west, one day be hit by an earthquake similar to California, not to mention hot spots like Indonesia or Haiti?

And it’s not like we don’t have (at least) a bit of history. Earthquakes have been documented in Louisiana since the early 19th century. Some large earthquakes originating as far away as Missouri and South Carolina have been felt here, particularly via ArkLaTex.

According to the records, the largest earthquake in Louisiana occurred in 1930 in Napoleonville (Darchy of the Ascension). It measured 4.2 on the Richter scale and, as the old newspapers said, “destroyed buildings and broke windows in Napoleonville and cracked plaster in White Castle, northwest of Napoleonville. Many people in the area rushed into the streets.”

There are stories of earthquakes that are not recent. Louisiana has felt tremors of great upheaval, though not for more than two centuries. A number of devastating earthquakes shook the central United States in 1811 and 1812. These were some of the largest ever seen in America, and their effects were felt, not only in this part of the state, but all the way to southern Louisiana, as far as New Orleans.

Finally, since 1843, the USGS has reported that more than 40 earthquakes have been felt in or around Louisiana.

LSU scientists say…

And what about the conclusion? Well, researchers Donald Stevenson and Richard McCulla at lsu.edu have to say:

“Although Louisiana is not seismically active, it is clear from the historical record that small earthquakes occasionally occur here. The New Madrid seismic zone is the area most likely to cause earthquakes that can affect Louisiana. Other immediate geological faults in Louisiana are Associated with growth failures, which are mainly located in the southern part of the state. These defects are more of a threat to property than life.”

So, despite its long earthquake history, Louisiana has relatively little destructive seismic activity, and to us, that sounds good. As any Louisiana resident will tell you, annual threats of tornadoes and tornadoes are more than enough to worry about.

LOOK: Stacker has ranked the costliest climate disaster in recent decades in the billions since 1980 by the total cost of all damage, adjusted for inflation, based on 2021 data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The list begins with Hurricane Sally, which caused $7.3 billion in damages in 2020, and ends with a devastating 2005 hurricane that caused an estimated $170 billion in damages and killed at least 1,833 people. Keep reading to discover the 50 most costly climate disasters of recent decades in the United States

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