How prepared is our area for an earthquake? -

How prepared is our area for an earthquake?

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. ( -

Last month, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico leveled 40 buildings, killed hundreds, and injured thousands.

Since then, there have been more than a dozen earthquakes along the Mexican coast, and with so many natural disasters around the world this year alone, News 4 spoke with a Washington University professor about the fault systems in our area that can lead to powerful earthquakes.

Doctor Douglas Wiens is the Robert S. Brookings Distinguished Professor of Earth and Planetary Science at the university. He said there are two fault lines that can affect our area: The well-known New Madrid seismic zone, which is the most active in our area, and the Wabash Valley seismic zone in Illinois.

Scientists predict there is about a 10 percent chance of a magnitude seven to eight earthquake in that zone in a 50 year time interval.

Dr. Wiens said a magnitude earthquake in that zone could cause as much damage in St. Louis as the earthquake in Mexico did to Mexico City.

“There are other similarities too like Mexico City has the main part of the city built on a lake bed and the sediments from that lake tend to amplify the motion of the ground and so that similar case would be a problem here in the St. Louis area,” he said.

Dr. Wiens added that the last notable earthquake that affected the St. Louis area was in 2008. Dr. Wiens said no area can be perfectly prepared for an earthquake because there are typically only a few seconds to react. Earthquake warning systems can alert people 20 to 30 seconds before the waves reach an area, but buildings can be constructed in ways that will cause less damage.

“I believe the most recent building code in the St. Louis area particularly for schools have some consideration of earthquake hazard in the building code but a lot of the older buildings don’t and then the question is how you deal with that,” he said.

Earthquakes in Missouri are nothing new. In fact, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said Missouri experiences earthquakes nearly every day, but they are typically too small to be noticed.        

Families can prepare for natural disasters by having an emergency plan that includes food as well as the best evacuation routes. 

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