Daviess County Emergency Management Agency is encouraging “maximum” participation in Thursday’s Great Central US Shakeout!

ShakeOut! began in California and has become an international drill that encourages participating regions to react as if there were a major earthquake occurring.

At 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15, Daviess County residents are encouraged to drop, cover and hold on for at least 60 seconds as if an earthquake was taking place.

While this may seem strange, the reality is that the potential of an earthquake in the region is not only possible but an eventuality, said Andy Ball, Daviess County Emergency Management Agency director.

“The New Madrid Seismic Zone and Wabash Valley Seismic Zone could very well affect Owensboro and Daviess County,” he said. “Both have affected our immediate area in the past. The New Madrid earthquakes of 1811 and 1812 did major damage throughout our area with earthquakes near 8.0 in magnitude.”

It is easy to disregard the happenings of 100 years ago, given the immense level of development in the region since, the potential for immense damage is likely and sooner rather than later, he said.

“According to www.in.gov, USGS and CERI scientists estimate that there is a 25% to 40% chance of a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake occurring in the next 50 years,” he said. “There is also a 7% to 10% chance of a magnitude 7.5 to 8.0 earthquake occurring in the New Madrid Seismic Zone within the next 50 years — www.jackson.gov says a New Madrid earthquake destruction could be 20 times a larger area than the same earthquake in California. Jackson states a major earthquake (7.0 or larger) occurs on the New Madrid Seismic Zone about every 200 to 300 years, whereas the USGS New Madrid website implies a recurrence of around 500 years.”

While the region has not been shaken by a major quake in quite some time, the reality is that those faults are active constantly, and the EMA has a plan in place for when the day comes, he said.

“The Daviess County Emergency Operations Plan contains a detailed plan specifically for earthquakes,” he said. “We exercised the plan amongst Owensboro and Daviess County agencies like local government, fire departments, law enforcement, utilities, hospital, etc. during our October 2017 tabletop exercise. ... On average, scientists record about 20 ‘events’ in the New Madrid seismic zone registering more than 1.0 on the Richter scale each month. A tremor strong enough to be felt (2.5 to 3.0 on the Richter scale) usually happens at least once a year.”

While those numbers may not seem like a big deal, the reality is that larger quakes happen quite frequently as well, he said.

“A magnitude 5.0 or higher shock strikes about once per decade,” he said. “They generally cause damage in a multitude of states. A ‘damaging’ earthquake (6.0 or greater) occurs in this area about every 80 years, according to seismologists. The last one to hit the area was in 1895. The 1811 and 1812 earthquakes that shook the New Madrid zone were several times more powerful than the infamous 1906 earthquake that left much of San Francisco in ruins.”

That’s why Thursday’s event is so important, Ball said.

“Because major earthquakes in our area are not frequent, many people put them out of their minds,” he said. “This is another reason a major earthquake in our area would cause great devastation, as many people would simply not be ready. I mean, just imagine bridges out, roads crumbled, rivers flooding, buildings collapsed, power and communications outages, and all of this happening while you are at work and your kids are at school. How would you communicate? How would you get home? How many days (of) food, water, medicine do you have? How would you get the supplies you need when many major interstates, highways, airports, riverports and rail could not support transportation of goods? Everyone should not only participate in these drills, but should also make plans and periodically test those plans with family and coworkers.”

For more information, visit: https://www.shakeout.org

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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