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Earthquakes are most common in the western states, but they can happen any time, anywhere. The New Madrid Seismic zone in the central Mississippi Valley has been the site of some of the largest earthquakes in North America. Between 1811 and 1812, four catastrophic earthquake occurred during a three-month period. Large earthquakes also ocurred in 1843 and 1895.
The New Madrid seismic zone was named because the town of New Madrid, Missouri was the closest settlement to the epicenters of the 1811-1812 quakes. At that time, St. Louis and other major cities in the central U.S. were sparsely settled. If a with a magnitude equal to that of the 1811- 1812 quakes were to happen in this region today, it would likely result in great loss of life and property damage in the billions of dollars.
The map to the right shows the damage zones from the 1895 New Madrid Earthquake. Red indicates areas that sustained structural damage. Yellow indicates areas where shaking was felt.