Researchers search for possible evacuation routes after a major New Madrid earthquake

ST. LOUIS – Scientists say the question is when not if. There will be a major earthquake in the Madrid New Seismic Zone, central from St. Louis about 160 miles south.

The last major earthquake occurred in 1895. Currently, there are many concerns about what to do after the next earthquake and whether there are enough ways to get people out of here.

Richard Buckthorpe, a resident of New Madrid, said: “It’s not going to be that no one gets out of here. “I’ve been trying to drive out but I don’t think I’ll make it.”

He actually moved out of town amid the hype of the major earthquake predicted by Iben Browning, forecast to happen in 1990. Since then, he has moved back and lives just a short distance from the hit point. The New Madrid fault line marks a few blocks off the banks of the Mississippi River.

“It was our fault,” he said with a laugh, quoting the town’s slogan. Residents seem to have accepted the meaning of a major earthquake.

Researchers are working to change that view for the eight Missouri counties (Cape Girardeau, Scott, Butler, Stoddard, New Madrid, Mississippi, Dunklin, and Pemiscot) that surround the fault, which embraces the Mississippi River from southern Missouri. and Illinois, and extends about 120 miles south into Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

Professor Praveen Edara of the University of Missouri Civil Engineering said: “The road network there is quite sparse, especially the road going out.

He is leading a team of researchers on a nearly $300,000 study on how best to evacuate the area’s nearly 300,000 residents in the event of a catastrophic earthquake.

Nearly all of those residents have seen the ruckus throughout the years.

“(I) think a truck hit the side of the house,” said Robbie Meyers, Director of the Butler County Emergency Management Agency.

He is describing the small 4.0 earthquake that hit Poplar Bluff in November.

Strong earthquakes in similarly active seismic regions around the globe have shown that moving people away from devastation and aftershocks to shelters and health services saves lives. . Unfortunately, for eight counties, west may be the only direction to go.

“All of our evacuations are in the west,” Meyers said. “The assumption is that maybe we can’t cross the Mississippi because some of the bridges may have been damaged. Evacuation for some people will not be immediate because roads or bridges out of their communities are not yet fixed. “

He urged residents to maintain a two-week supply of food, water and medicine.

“This research will tell us here are the roads that will be in the best shape, that will be the best roads for us to get the public out, and the other part is that we also have to respond urgently. level,” said MODOT Research Director Jen Harper.

“If a large-scale earthquake occurs in New Madrid, the possibility of liquefaction along the banks of the Mississippi River is very high,” Edara said.

“Liquefaction” occurs when water saturates the sediment caused by seismic waves. Roads and buildings essentially float, slide, sink, and separate.

So Interstate 55, the best north-south exit in the New Madrid area, along with the bridges to the east, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Cairo, Illinois could be “out of bounds.” “.

The team is running computer models that focus on the paths leading to the west, “connecting” different earthquake magnitudes and epicenters.

“(We will) rerun the models to see if you don’t have three of the main bridges, how much extra latency will that cause. Where will the bottlenecks move? “Edara said. “We’re going to do a ‘what if’ analysis.”

Surveys are also being conducted of residents to see how they plan to react: Will they try to stay put or leave?

Finally, mobile mapping “apps” could be updated to show people the safest way out after an earthquake.

“The end is eventually, we’re going to get this kind of thing to be able to interact with the tools that people have in their hands (i.e. phones) and will say to them, ‘hey, this is where you want to be. come,'” Harper said.

Another study will be done of the St. Louis upon completion in July.

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Charles Jones

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