It has been 200 years since the New Madrid Earthquake, a major seismic event that rattled the Central U.S. in the winter of 1811. The quake, which was estimated as being a 7.0, struck what is, today, Missouri. To mark the occasion, AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe modeling firm serving the insurance industry, has released a new report titled “The New Madrid Earthquake Bicentennial: Revisiting A Midwest Mystery.” The report details how much the catastrophe modeling community has changes in the centuries following the disaster and estimates the financial impacts of the event if it were to happen today.
Two centuries ago, Missouri, which was then part of the Louisiana Territory, was sparsely populated. Records suggest that the quake could be felt as far as 50,000 square miles away. The United States Geological Survey claims that the quake was so powerful that church bells as far away as New York rang due to the reverberations. Today, the USGS claims that there is a 7-10% chance that a similar event could happen in the region within the next 50 years.
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According to AIR Worldwide, if such an earthquake were to happen today, the disaster would cause more than $110 billion in damage. That total may end up being higher depending upon the extent of the damage caused to industrial buildings, energy infrastructure and loss of human life. The modeling agency notes that, despite new engineering and construction methods, there is little that can be done to protect the region from a powerful earthquake.