31 Years Ago, The New Madrid Earthquake Prediction that Failed
Do you remember how crazy it became in early December of 1990 when a man predicted a massive earthquake on the New Madrid Fault? It truly became a media spectacle with only one problem. The earthquake never happened.
I had a colleague casually mention this week about how their school was cancelled on December 3, 1990 when Iben Browning predicted there would be a killer New Madrid earthquake. That began my quest to document exactly how crazy it became in Missouri and Illinois around that time. I remember we had tons of camera crews driving through here on their way to New Madrid, Missouri.
Several years ago, Buzzfeed shared a story about exactly what Iben predicted according to the USGS. This is the main prediction:
- A 50% probability of a magnitude 6.5 to 7.5 earthquake in the New Madrid region on December 2-3, [1990,] plus or minus two days (December 1-5).
The Buzzfeed story said that some schools in southern Missouri called off classes for December 3, 1990 that summer. One of my colleagues mentioned that their school made it optional if parents wanted to keep their kids home that day.
While many knew that Iben Browning had no scientific data to back up his prediction, some people began to take the warning a lot more serious after there was a 4.7 earthquake on the New Madrid September 26, 1990.
On December 3, 1990...nothing happened. Or, I should say no earthquakes happened near the New Madrid Fault. The prediction came and went and eventually the camera crews left and Missouri more or less went back to normal.
What has happened since is there is a market for some of the t-shirts that were created around the prediction. Some of the original ones are going for over $100 on Ebay.
We can laugh about it now, but it was serious business for many near New Madrid, Missouri back in December of 1990. The earthquake prediction that came and went with the only shaking coming from the insane media coverage of the day.