Predicted earthquake didn’t shake

By Amy Julian

Whether they took the earthquake seriously or not, people living along the New Madrid fault did not have anything to worry about Monday.

No earthquake hit the area, even though New Mexico physiologist Iben Browning had predicted one for Dec. 3 that could have registered 6.5 to 7.5 on the Richter scale.

But geophysicists at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, which is near the fault, weren’t expecting to find signs of the earthquake.

“We agreed with all the geoscientists that there was no reason why Dec. 3 was any more likely a date for an earthquake,” said Harvey Henson, a research geophysicist at SIU.

Browning wouldn’t have been able to determine a date for an earthquake based on the data available, Henson said.

The New Madrid fault runs from Southern Arkansas to Southern Illinois and passes under Southeast Missouri. Some researchers have found evidence from trenching done around the fault suggesting there could be a major earthquake in the next 600 to 1000 years, he said.

“As we add to the data, we add to the public’s information,” he said. The information needed to predict earthquakes increases yearly, but prediction is not an exact science, he said.

“Most of the campus was worried but I wasn’t,” said Marc Cohen, a senior SIU student. Students were stocking up on water, canned goods, sweets, flashlights, batteries and gasoline, Cohen said.

Some students did leave campus or move out of 17-story Neely Hall for the day, but on Monday students were treating the prediction “like a joke,” he said. “Everyone is laughing about it,” he said.