So I missed the East Coast Earthquake of 2011 (or as I like to call it, The Mayan Test Run for 2012). I was outside taking part in my daily walk with my headphones on full blast. I do recall feeling a little queasy at one point but I chalked that up to the hot weather. Maybe the ground had actually shifted under my feet and turned my stomach! But then I came back inside and noticed the news talking about nuclear plants being shut down. My first thought was that Japan had suffered another aftershock. But why were they showing pictures of Times Square. OMG! EARTHQUAKE! ALL IS LOST! Or something like that.

Fortunately it looks like there was very little damage. I’ve heard about a few churches losing their steeples and some injuries but thankfully no deaths. A 5.9 is a solid earthquake but generally not very devastating. It might have been different if it had hit downtown DC, Richmond, or Charlotte directly but of course that didn’t happen.

Here’s a map I found on the Smithsonian Magazine web site showing earthquake threats around the country:

Not surprisingly, Hawaii, Alaska, and the west coast have high threats of earthquakes. But look at the two areas farther east. The area where Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Arkansas meet is apparently called the New Madrid Seismic Zone and has had four of the largest earthquakes in U.S. history. The last major one happened in 1812 so how prepared is that area in case a big one happens. Also, look at Charleston, SC. A 7.3 earthquake hit Charleston in 1886 and killed more than 100 people. One simulation estimated that if a similar earthquake struck that area today, 900 would die and there would be $200 billion in damages. That’s worse than Katrina and on par with the Kobe Earthquake of 1995. The only natural disaster that would be worse in economic terms would be the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The eastern USA isn’t as well known for seismic activity, but based on this map it’s only a matter of time. Hopefully today’s event will provide the incentive to make sure certain areas are prepared in case an unexpected big one occurs.