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'Shaken Fury 2019' Exercise Prepares Agencies For Massive New Madrid Earthquake


Communities in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, including far west Kentucky, are conducting an exercise this week and next to prepare for a sudden, massive earthquake, should one occur. The FEMA-involved "Shaken Fury 2019" will test response and recovery efforts. The scenario involves a “no-notice” 7.7 magnitude earthquake at the southern end of the fault near Memphis, Tennessee.

The exercise involves an earthquake striking along the Cottonwood Grove Fault. The scenario affects Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

These exercises are underway beginning this week, with one in Calloway County on Thursday, and continue into June.

According to informational sheets by FEMA, the objectives are to establish information sharing practices; to demonstrate state, local and federal response efforts; real-time field reporting capabilities; validate aid resource planning and tracking capabilities; and other capabilities.

Credit FEMA

Calloway County Emergency Management Director Bill Call said the last “killer” New Madrid earthquake was more than 200 years ago, around 1812. He said there while there wasn’t a lot of population in the region at the time so it didn’t cause much loss of life, but what little property was here suffered quite a bit of destruction.

According to the USGS, those series of earthquakes were in the 7.0 magnitude range. “If we had a repeat of that, it would be devastating,” Call said. He also noted a 5.3 magnitude New Madrid quake in the 1960s that damaged buildings, but saw no loss of life.

As for what a 7.7 magnitude earthquake would look like today, Call said: “Your masonry chimneys would be down. Buildings - unless they’re designed to be earthquake resistant - that are more than a couple stories would probably have quite a bit of brick and masonry damage. You might even have a few collapsed buildings of the older types...We don’t think Calloway would suffer as much as some of our surrounding counties - especially the river counties. The soil there is prone to what’s called liquefaction, where it just shakes like it was water.” Liquefaction - think the ground becoming like quicksand. He said counties that border the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers are expected to suffer from that in a major quake. Structures in those areas could expect quite a bit of damage.

Calloway may be in a situation where parts of the county are still functional and others not. “So we’d be looking then at how to move people from danger or destroyed areas to shelter and other areas. Some of the other counties are going to have to look at total evacuation of the survivors and that’s going to be tougher for them to do.”

When asked whether we’re due for another massive earthquake on the New Madrid Fault, Call said, “How soon is anyone’s guess. It could be tomorrow. It could be 50 years from now. But at some point that cycle is due to repeat itself.”

He wants individuals to take note of hazards and to do some level of preparedness. “Ideally, if such an event were to take place, we’d like all citizens to be self-sufficient for at least three days. It really may take that long for help to arrive.” He recommended storing some food, water and and emergency supplies to get by until help can arrive.

More about Shaken Fury 2019 and earthquake preparedness materials

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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