Though tornadoes might seem to be the most potentially damaging natural phenomena to those in the Hoosier state, the threat of earthquakes looms large in Indiana. Geological research undertaken after a magnitude 5.0 quake in southern Indiana in June 2002 demonstrated the ancient history of the area’s seismic volatility. Researchers linked the 2002 quake to the reactivation of a fault line dating back to the pre-Cambrian era. Faults are the areas of contact between the cracked plates of the earth’s crust, which exert force against one another. Unlike California ‘s celebrated San Andreas Fault, Indiana ‘s faults are not visible, but are buried deep beneath the earth’s surface. The Wabash Valley Seismic Zone is a substantial fault system that extends throughout southeastern Illinois, southwestern Indiana and western Kentucky.
Pre-historic earthquakes measuring up to 7.5 in magnitude have been established in the Wabash Valley according to geological evidence. At least six major earthquakes with epicenters in Indiana occurred during the last 12,000 years. In recent history, t he most damaging earthquake originating within the state occurred on September 27, 1909 near the Illinois border between Vincennes and Terre Haute. Indiana has also felt the reverberations of quakes originating in the New Madrid [MAD’-rid] Seismic Zone, most notably during 1811 and 1812.
Researchers are unable to predict the timing of earthquakes with much precision. Nonetheless, the history of earthquakes with epicenters in the state and the compressional forces at work deep within the continent point to the possibility of future earthquakes in Indiana.
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