TEMA: Most serious natural disaster threat Tennessee will have is an earthquake

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Rescuers searched massive piles of rubble Wednesday for any signs of life after dozens of building collapsed across central Mexico in Tuesday’s violent earthquake. It killed at least 225 people and injured at least one-thousand people.

On Wednesday, WKRN spoke with members of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency who say the most serious natural disaster threat we will have in Tennessee is from an earthquake.

Cecil Whaley, TEMA’s earthquake program manager, told News 2 it’s not a matter of if Tennessee will get hit with a serious earthquake, it’s a matter of when.

Tennessee is one of several states that border the earthquake zone known as the New Madrid Seismic Zone.

“The New Madrid fault actually produced four major earth quakes back in 1811, 1812, right around Christmas time and New Years, which were the four largest earthquakes ever recorded in United States history. They were larger than the earthquake that completely burned up and tore down San Francisco in 1906,” said Whaley.

Experts say an earthquake of that magnitude, 7.0 to 7.5 on the Richter scale, could happen again in present day.

“What the scientists tell us is there is about a 20 to 30 percent chance that next 10 years will have some type of event which will cause significant damages so we are constantly working with the public to make them understand that we do have this threat. It’s just as real as tornadoes or flooding,” explained Whaley.

The TEMA experts have up to the minute mapping equipment to show them where earthquakes are happening all over the world.

They told WKRN two small earthquakes happened in West Tennessee Wednesday morning, but they were so small that people didn’t feel them.

“We get at least five earthquakes a week along the New Madrid Fault line and those show up as very small one magnitude, two magnitude, very deep in the earth, but we can still see them and track them. So we saw the Mexico earthquake when it happened this week, the 7.1, so we are able to monitor that from this watch point anytime there is an earth quake in Tennessee,” said Dean Flener, spokesman for TEMA.

Although the damage and loss of life would be catastrophic in West Tennessee during this earthquake, experts say Middle Tennessee will still experience devastating effects.

TEMA is urging that all Tennessee families should have an emergency preparedness kit in both their homes and cars. For more information visit RedCross.org.

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