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After Recent 4.0 Magnitude Earthquake In Southeast Missouri, Awareness Of Region's Level Of Preparedness Is Renewed

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On Wednesday, Nov. 17, around 8:53 p.m. a 4.0 magnitude earthquake struck Southeast Missouri.

The center of the earthquake has been traced to the small town of Williamsville, Missouri, in Wayne County, near the Poplar Bluff area.

There were also reports made by individuals in Cape Girardeau and Farmington who felt the effects of the quake.

No major damage was caused, but accounts of minor damage such as pictures falling off walls, shelves or broken dishes were reported.

Nearly an hour and 40 minutes later, a smaller 2.5 magnitude quake was felt near the region.

Jeff Briggs, Earthquake Program Coordinator at the State Emergency Management Agency explained that while quakes are not unusual to Missouri, the magnitude of the recent earthquake is noteworthy.

“Southeast Missouri is right there in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, historically speaking the largest active seismic zone in the US east of the Rocky Mountains. In Southeast Missouri, we have several hundred of them every year. Most of them, however, are too small to be felt or only felt very, very locally,” said Briggs.

"This one was unusually big. In fact, we looked at it earlier today, and this was the largest earthquake we've had in the state of Missouri. In 30 years. So it's unusual to have witnessed something that is felt so widely.”

Briggs explained that the quake was met with reactions of emergency calls.

“I've talked with the emergency management director in Butler County, and they talked about how a lot of people felt it and called 911. The 911 Center was just overwhelmed with calls, but fortunately, once the initial shock of feeling it and reacting to it passed, things got back to relatively normal pretty quickly, because the shaking was not big enough to cause a lot of damage and was not big enough to cause power outages or fires or anything like that,” said Briggs.

Briggs explained that there are simple ways to prepare for an earthquake of any size.

“You can look around wherever you are and do simple things, like if there's a heavy object that's on the tall shelf, you can move it to a lower shelf. If there's a big wobbly bookcase next to your bed, you don't want that to fall on you while you sleep, move that bookcase or bolt it to the wall,” said Briggs. “Secure those things just to minimize the risk, that's what you could do now to get ready when the shaking actually does start in the future.”

Briggs emphasizes to follow the three step safety practice of ‘drop, cover, and hold on’ in the future when an unexpected earthquake begins.

“That’s the three step safety process. We want people to drop to the ground and then cover up any way you can if there's a security table or a desk nearby, crawl under there, protect your head with your arms crunched down on the ground, protect yourself and then hold on to whatever's protecting you until the shaking stops,” said Briggs.

More information about earthquake preparedness is available on Missouri's State Emergency Management page.