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Geologist: Illinois earthquake threat is real | News

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(The Center Square) – The Illinois Emergency Management Agency is promoting earthquake preparedness for February.

Many Illinois residents do not consider earthquakes a threat, but Illinois has experienced at least 13 earthquakes since September 2017, when a magnitude 3.8 earthquake shook the southeastern part of the state, according to an IEMA news release.

Harvey Henson, assistant professor of geology at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, said earthquakes pose a real threat in Illinois, and especially in the southern region.

Illinois is home to seismic zones in New Madrid and the Wabash Valley, which have caused major earthquakes in the past.

A number of earthquakes struck the area about 200 years ago in the winter of 1811-1812.

“The first major earthquake, depending on the study I’ve read, and your estimate of what you think, was between 7.5 and 8.0 on the Richter scale,” Henson said.

Henson said a series of three large earthquakes struck, one each in December, January and February. He said that between these major events minor earthquakes persisted.

“There were settlers in the area – colonists, fishermen, and explorers from the top and bottom of the rivers – who said that the Earth was sometimes in a state of constant agitation with these aftershocks and shocks, some of them four degrees, five and six years,” Henson said.

Illinois has not experienced a major earthquake since its modern infrastructure such as bridges, utility lines, and skyscrapers were built. Henson warns what an 8.0-magnitude earthquake might do.

“These are big cities and large population densities that were not there at the time, so all of that will be affected, and the Midwest will likely be closed,” he said.

Henson and IEMA said the history of earthquakes in Illinois indicates that residents should prepare.

Henson said there are two steps to preparing. The first is education.

He said, “Put this issue in place for people to think about, because I think it is human nature to first be afraid of things that we do not understand, so let’s talk about earthquakes.”

Next, Henson says people should prepare by thinking about how long they would be without the basics if a disaster strikes and what they might need.

“Are you on prescription?” He said. “Do you have a pet? How many people are in your house? How much water does a person need per day?”

Henson recommended putting together a set in a worst-case scenario.

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