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Earthquake in Southern Missouri not the ‘Big One’

It wasn’t the “big one” but residents are still cleaning up after a 2.3 magnitude earthquake struck just north of Centerville, Missouri, Sunday evening the Missouri Geological Survey reports. Centerville is about two hours southwest of St. Louis.

The New Madrid fault, a major seismic zone, runs through Missouri’s southern bootheel and the state experiences minor earthquakes on a regular basis, experts say. More than 200 have shook the state over the last decade, and most are too small to be felt.

In 1811 and 1812, a series of major earthquakes hit southern Missouri, killing hundreds. The February 6, 1812, quake was so powerful that it rang church bells in Baltimore and caused a backwash that for a short time made the Mississippi River appear to run backwards, according to author and historian Lee Sandlin.

“The shock was so large that a titanic backwash of water went flashing northward upriver against the current, swamping boats, flooding levees, and drowning houses on the riverbanks: an impossible apparition terrifying everybody caught up in its furious rush,” Sandlin writes in his book Wicked River. (For an excellent history of the Mississippi, detailing everything from river pirates, island duels and comets of doom, Sandlin’s book is well worth the read.)

Experts say there is about a 10 percent chance of a repeat of the New Madrid Earthquake over the next 50 years, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Officials say Missouri residents should be ready for another major quake and that knowledge and preparation are key.

Damage in Sundays temblor was extremely light. It will be a much different story when the “big one” hits.