Volcanoes and Earthquakes

When did the most severe earthquake in American history occur?

The New Madrid series of earthquakes (a series of quakes starting on December 16, 1811, and lasting until March 1812) is considered to be the most severe earthquake event in U.S. history. It shook more than two-thirds of the United States and was felt in Canada. It changed the level of land by as much as 20 feet (6 meters), altered the course of the Mississippi River, and created new lakes, such as Lake St. Francis west of the Mississippi and Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee. Because the area was so sparsely populated, no known loss of life occurred. Scientists agree that at least three, and possibly five, of the quakes had surface wave magnitudes of 8.0 or greater. The largest was probably a magnitude of 8.8, which is larger than any quake yet experienced in California.


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