Connoisseurs of disaster know that the official map of seismic hazards in the United States paints a fat red bull's-eye in the middle of the country, right where Missouri dovetails into Arkansas:
FEMA expects a major earthquake in the central United States to be the costliest natural disaster in American history, which as a California tech worker wounds my professional pride. We've spent decades building America's most valuable industry on top of a seismic powder keg, only to find ourselves outdone by a bunch of Midwestern cotton farmers. How could they erect a more precarious house of cards than Silicon Valley?
To find out, last spring I joined a group of Midwestern geologists and fellow-travelers on a sort-of-annual field trip to the New Madrid Seismic Zone. The goal of these trips, organized by Phyllis Steckel of Earthquake Insights, is to develop an eye for the kinds of structures and landscapes at greatest risk in a central US earthquake, to soak up the seismic ambiance of the place, to take killer ?before? pictures for when the Big One comes, and above all to put the fear of God into actuaries and insurance assessors, the only people who have enough economic leverage to make painful and expensive seismic retrofitting happen in the central United States.
Just when you thought it was safe in the middle of the country, NOPE! There's a big old bulls eye right where Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee and Kentucky all meet, just waiting for the Big One to strike (probably just after the Cascadia subduction zone goes do doubt).