Almost everyone knows about the great San Andres fault line that stretches along California’s coastline for 800 miles, but not everyone knows about the various other earthquake hazards across the US from Hawaii to Missouri. Because the San Andres is so long and minor earthquakes occur so frequently, California tends to hog most of the attention. Other significant seismic spots include the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington), New Madrid (Missouri), Wasatch (Utah), Hawaii and Alaska.
The Cascadia Subduction Zone:
As far as strength goes, the biggest hazard is actually just above the San Andreas. That area to the north is called the Cascadia Subduction Zone, it’s just offshore of Oregon and Washington and is capable of delivering level 9 earthquakes, the equivalent of 30 times the damage San Andres could ever do. In comparison, the sun always shines on California it seems.
On the other side of the states, New Madrid in Missouri (150 miles long) is responsible for some of the United States’ record largest earthquakes. The New Madrid Fault Line is the greatest earthquake risk for the United States east of the Rockies. Similar to The Cascadia Subduction Zone’s relationship with The San Andres, although New Madrid earthquakes occur less often, the damage tends to be far more intense than that of the San Andres fault.
The 240-mile fault line situated through Salt Lake City has caused catastrophic problems in the past. However, the past, in this case, means over one hundred and fifty years ago. This fault line is capable of unleashing earthquakes of a 7.5 magnitude, .6 points off from the San Andres’ 8.1 magnitude rating. Although there has been a minor lull in the Wasatch fault line’s activity, experts say they expect it is due for another earthquake in the near future, as in any moment now.
Alaska is home to the second largest earthquake in the world. At 9.2, the magnitude of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake was bigger than anything the San Andres, Wasatch, or even the powerful Cascadia Subduction Zone could ever hope to create. After this earthquake, some people said that Alaska looked as if it had just come straight out of an apocalyptic movie. The cracks in the ground were phenomenal; the ground itself lifted as much as 28 feet in places and dropped seven feet in others. This particular quake was caused by the oceanic plate being pushed, uncomfortably I might add, beneath the continental plate, actually causing a tsunami as well. Although Alaska is safe from these plates for an estimated few hundred years, Alaska has a fault line of its own called the Denali Fault which is 30-miles long and stretches into Canada.
The beautiful tropical vacation spot is no exception to US earthquakes. In fact, with a history of a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in 1868, it is right up there with its American west coast competitors. Because the volcanic and earthquake processes are linked, Hawaii is a huge hotspot for potential earthquake hazards. However Hawaii’s nature, being a chain of islands formed from lava with only one large recorded earthquake, makes predicting when the next quake will strike extremely difficult.
If you are a non-Californian American resident, don’t count yourself out of the earthquake hazard zone just yet. As noted, there are areas across the country that are just as susceptible, if not more, to serious earthquakes. So start preparing now for the next big quake. The government has great emergency preparedness materials to reference when building your natural preparedness kit including a comprehensive checklist that can be found on their ready.gov page. Keep yourself grounded, prepare now.
To learn more about potential earthquake danger zones in the United States, visit Betsy Mason’s article on Wired.com. Below is an infographic by bepreparedmetromanila.com, explaining what to do to in the event of an earthquake.