The Hoosier state has trembled in the wake of earth waves generated by powerful earthquakes in the past, and will no doubt shake again in the future. To better understand our earthquake risk, researchers evaluate previous earthquakes and their causes.

New Madrid Earthquakes

When the people living in and near the town of New Madrid in what is now southeastern Missouri went to bed the night of December 15, 1811, they had no way of knowing that they would be jarred out of their sleep by shock waves that could be felt as far away as Washington, D.C. The force produced by this severe earthquake - one of the most powerful ever felt in the central United States - collapsed buildings, caused trees to topple, and changed the course of the Mississippi River. During the following two months, the region would be rocked by three more earthquakes as powerful as the first and by more than a thousand smaller aftershocks. Seismic waves from these large-magnitude events were felt in Indiana and reported as far away as New York.

More Recent Earthquakes

Since the historic New Madrid quakes, Indiana has felt the effects of many other earthquakes. The strongest of these was the 1895 Charleston, Missouri, earthquake, which damaged buildings in Evansville and other parts of southwestern Indiana. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the most intense shaking experienced in Indiana occurred in the Wabash River valley on September 27, 1909. This earthquake knocked down chimneys, broke windows, cracked plaster, and was felt in Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee. More recently, in 2008, Indiana felt the effects of a moderate earthquake centered near Mt. Carmel, Illinois, just west of Vincennes.