5 Insane Things that Happened During the 1811 New Madrid Quake
It's rather common knowledge in our part of America that the largest known earthquake in Missouri history happened in 1811. But, there are 5 things that really happened during the New Madrid earthquake that year that border on the insane.
We're approaching the 210 year anniversary of the great New Madrid quake that happened at 2:15 am on December 16, 1811. According to Wikipedia, it wasn't just one quake, but a series of 3. The first jolt registered as high as 8.2 on the Richter Scale. There wasn't much population in the area at the time, but there are some eyewitness accounts that include some truly remarkable things that happened as a result of the quake.
1. The Mississippi River "roared" and flowed backward according to Eliza Bryan who said in 1812 the following:
The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go, or what to do—the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species—the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi— the current of which was retrograde for a few minutes, owing as is supposed, to an irruption in its bed— formed a scene truly horrible.
2. The Mississippi River rose up several feet "like a giant loaf of bread".
This comes from another eyewitness account according to Smithsonian.com:
Michael Braunm observed the river suddenly rise up “like a great loaf of bread to the height of many feet.”
3. The earth split and sand geysers erupted including water, coal along with the sand leaving piles on the ground.
The Smithsonian article mentioned that "sand blows" were found in 5 surrounding states showing where the ground ruptured. It would appear like a geyser like this, but in sand and other debris form.
4. River tsunamis washed some boats completely out of the river.
Another eyewitness account by John Bradbury documented on Wikipedia states that the river banks collapsing in some areas overwhelmed their boat:
immediately the perpendicular banks, both above and below us, began to fall into the river in such vast masses, as nearly to sink our boat by the swell they occasioned
5. Church bells rang as far away as Charleston, South Carolina
The Smithsonian notes that church bells rang across much of the country as they were numerous during those days. Thinking of a church over 850 miles away from St. Louis having its bell rung is beyond my ability to imagine.
Chimneys were knocked over, cattle came running in from the fields screaming are just some of the other eyewitness testimony of the levity of those events. Multiple monster quakes that even caused one community in Indiana to be deserted according to reports back in the day.
FEMA estimates that a quake of this magnitude now on the New Madrid Fault would likely be the largest economic disaster in the history of this country. Let's hope that's an estimate that never becomes reality.