ST. LOUIS ( -- A pair of strong earthquakes in California this month are reminding people in St. Louis about the chance for a dangerous tremor in this area.

Throughout the years, the St. Louis area has felt a few smaller earthquakes.

"I was in high school and there was a rumble," said Amaria Villars, recalling one she experienced, "I was petrified. I'm like 'OK, what's going on?' It was early in the morning and I had just woke up."

Washington University Professor of Earth and Planetary Science Douglas Wiens says we shouldn't worry about quakes in California setting off one off here in the Midwest; the bigger threats are faults in southern Illinois and the New Madrid Fault Line.

"There are a lot of small earthquakes there now so we know there is a small chance of a large earthquake happening there," said Wiens.

The last major earthquake along the New Madrid Fault Line was back in the 1800s. But experts say the timing of next one is hard to predict.

"The New Madrid Fault is not a fault like the San Andreas Fault. San Andreas Fault is on the plate boundary between North America and the Pacific Ocean where they are sliding and we know the long-term sliding rate over that fault. At New Madrid, we don't see that same kind of long term motion. So it's harder for us to understand how much stress is built up," said Wiens, explaining the New Madrid Fault is more like a weakness or cut inside of a plate, rather than two plates rubbing against each other.

He said the chance for smaller quakes is higher than a big one.

"People tend to either get really paranoid or tend to ignore the earthquake hazard. I think what we need is somewhere in the between where we realize there is an earthquake hazard and design our buildings so they don't collapse and kill people when there is an earthquake but at the same time it doesn't make any sense to be paranoid about earthquakes," said Wiens.

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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