Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Magnitude 4.0 earthquake felt in Memphis metro

While the New Madrid seismic zone is known to produce literally hundreds of micro-quakes each year, it is rare that any are felt noticeably throughout the Memphis metro. However, on Wednesday night at 8:53pm, the New Madrid fault produced what we believe to be the strongest earthquake in 16 years, a magnitude 4.0 tremor that was centered deep in the earth's crust just northwest of  Poplar Bluff, MO. 

A seismograph from  Lake Charles, AR clearly recorded the motion of the earthquake. (USGS)

While certainly not as strong as the quakes that caused the Mississippi River to "flow backwards" in the winter of 1811-1812, reports were quickly received of jolts and rumbles across the metro. The last time a quake this strong occurred on the New Madrid fault was May 1, 2005, a magnitude 4.2 centered near Manila, AR, east of Jonesboro. 

The community-based "shake map" clearly shows the earthquake was felt over a large area. (USGS) 

More information on the earthquake, as well as a page that allows you to report if you felt it, can be found on the event page from the U.S. Geologic Survey. So while it was a noticeable event for many in the metro, it is a reminder that we live on the southern edge of an active fault and should be prepared, just in case. This time, we're simply glad that it wasn't any worse... and hoping it is not a pre-shock to "the big one."

Erik Proseus
MWN Meteorologist

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