7 Unbelievable Events During the 1811 New Madrid, Missouri Quakes
There has never been an earthquake in Missouri quite like the ones that struck the state during the historic 1811 and 1812 events. There were a number of almost unbelievable things that happened during those quakes that are actually historical facts.
I came across a poster made by the USGS to commemorate what was then the 200th anniversary of the 1811 earthquake event that quite literally changed the geography of Missouri and the region surrounding the New Madrid Fault. It contained 20 "cool facts" about things that happened during and after those 3 mammoth quakes that measured above 7 on the Richter Scale. Here are 7 that I found to be almost unbelievable if they weren't actually recorded historical facts:
1. Steamboat passengers woke up and realized the island they were tethered to had disappeared overnight
The first voyage of the steamboat New Orleans set off in September of 1811. It reached the area near Missouri the night prior to the first quake in December. The crew had moored the steamboat to an island in the Mississippi. When they woke up the next morning, the island had disappeared into the river.
2. The first major quake in December of 1811 in New Madrid, Missouri woke up the President of the United States in Washington, D.C.
President James Madison was asleep in the White House on that December morning of 1811 when the violent New Madrid quake woke him and almost everyone along the eastern seaboard up.
3. The government sent only $50,000 in aid to help the residents of New Madrid, Missouri recover
It doesn't sound like a lot of money, but $50,000 in 1811 is equal to over $1,000,000 today. It was the first federal aid package sent by the US for a natural disaster.
4. The series of 3 major 1811/1812 made a new lake
In February of 1812, the 3rd major New Madrid quake from that event made Reelfoot Lake as the Mississippi River flooded its banks. It's still there today.
5. Sand volcanoes erupted high into the air
As the New Madrid fault unleashed its crushing force, the sandy banks of the Mississippi erupted skyward. Many that witnessed the events believed the world was about to come to an end.
6. Parts of the land in Missouri instantly liquified
The violence of the New Madrid earthquakes of late 1811 and early 1812 caused parts of the land near the river to not just crack, but in many areas become liquid.
7. Only 1 person actually died in New Madrid, Missouri
Perhaps one of the most incredible facts of the historic 1811 and 1812 New Madrid, Missouri earthquakes was that only 1 life was lost after a chimney fell on them.
One bonus fact that I was not aware of was that St. Louis, Missouri only had a population of just over 5,000 in 1811. If a major quake like the ones that struck during 1811 and 1812 were to happen today, the catastrophe would be almost unimaginable due to the highly-populated metro areas that now occupy that region including St. Louis and Memphis.
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Gallery Credit: Credit - Polly McAdams