Earlier this month (November 17 at 8:53 p.m. CST…but who’s counting, right?), I was upstairs proofreading a document when I heard something slightly odd. I didn’t think much about it at first, seeing as how we were expecting a line of thunderstorms and I figured it was–in the grand tradition of movie tropes–just the wind. It wasn’t as much of a sound as it was a sensation that the house had settled. I kept working until I realized that I heard rattling. When I put two and two together, I fell back on my training…training that began around 1990 and which told me that the sensation I was noticing was an earthquake. More on that training in a bit.
I mention 1990 because that was the point in time that anyone living in the New Madrid Seismic Zone was made acutely aware of the existence of the fault line thanks to a prediction. Now, anyone living in the area in 1811 and 1812 was also highly aware of the seismic zone after a series of massive earthquakes struck the area then, but no one from that time was still around to explain what that was like to us in 1990.
The modern-day prediction, made by a self-proclaimed climatologist, asserted that those of us living along the fault line had a high chance of experiencing a major earthquake sometime around December 2-3, 1990. If I remember correctly, the prediction didn’t gain much traction until a tremor similar to the one we experienced recently struck in September of that year. After that, earthquake drills and prep kits became fairly common for a time.
While December 2-3 of 1990 came and went with a whimper (save for the media circus), we do still receive periodic reminders that our terra firma isn’t quite as…well, firma as we think it is. (Our soil is kinda squishy. Small earthquakes don’t seem so small around here.)
And on November 17 at 8:53 p.m. CST, I jumped up from my desk and ran like a turkey down the stairs. Exactly what I wasn’t supposed to do.
The initial magnitude was set at 3.7, then later upgraded to 4.0 by the USGS. (An improvement from the Dean’s List to the Chancellor’s List!) About two hours later, the thunderstorms arrived.
I think I went to sleep a day or two later.
And…I’m still a little rattled. I suppose it’s time to refresh my training on the subject.