Earthquakes - Earthquakes in Indiana

Jeff Kirby

Historic earthquakes

Yes! The Hoosier state has trembled in the wake of earth waves generated by powerful earthquakes in the past, and will, no doubt, tremble again in quakes that are yet to come. These pages briefly describe earthquakes in our past, what causes our earthquakes, what is being done to reduce losses that will result from future quakes, and what you should do before, during, and after an earthquake.

New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12

When the people living in and near the town of New Madrid in what is now southeastern Missouri went to bed on the night of December 15, 1811, they had no way of knowing that during the pre-dawn hours of the following morning they would be jarred from their peaceful slumber by shock waves that rippled through the earth with such force that buildings collapsed, trees toppled, and the Mississippi River changed course. The explosive force that shattered the stillness of that serene setting was one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in North America. During the next two months, the area would be rocked by three more quakes as powerful as the first (one just six hours after the first) and hundreds of smaller ones. The larger quakes shook the earth with enough force to cause church bells to ring in Washington, D.C. They were felt in Indiana and were even felt a thousand miles away in New Hampshire.

Earthquakes since 1811-12

Since the New Madrid quakes, Indiana has felt the effects of many earthquakes. The strongest of these was the 1895 Charleston, Missouri quake, which damaged buildings in Evansville and other parts of southwestern Indiana. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the strongest quake centered in Indiana during historic times struck the Wabash River valley on September 27, 1909. This quake knocked down chimneys, broke windows, and cracked plaster in the lower Wabash Valley and was reportedly felt in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee. More recently, Indiana was shaken in 1987 by a quake centered near Olney, Illinois, just west of Vincennes.

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