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PORTAGEVILLE, Mo. — There is a 25% to 40% possibility of a magnitude 6 or greater earthquake occurring in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) within the next 50 years, according to Andrea Spillars, Region 7 administrator for Federal Emergency Management Agency. She shared this prediction during the 2023 Earthquake Summit in Portageville, Missouri last week.

“Having this event here is so important to making sure we are communicating and collaborating with the boots on the ground. Our folks are so resilient in Missouri… but (if) a devastating earthquake were to happen in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, it’s going to take everyone in this room plus the whole of the government to make sure folks are okay,” Spillars told the Southeast Missourian.

The event brought together key people not only from Southeast Missouri, but from Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, and other regions.

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Approximately 20 damaging earthquakes have occurred in the NMSZ since the catastrophic 1811-1812 series of earthquakes that caused damage to communities not just in Southeast Missouri, where homes and buildings were left in ruin, but across the entire state. The series of earthquakes also caused the Mississippi River run backward for a short time.

The more catastrophic quakes have occurred on average about every 500 years, but it doesn’t mean larger earthquakes can’t happen at any time.

When it comes to the strength of an earthquake, each step up in magnitude means 32 times more energy is being released. A magnitude 5 quake releases 900 times more energy than a magnitude 3. A magnitude 7 would release 1 million times more energy than a magnitude 3.