The Aftermath: Haiti

16 01 2010

In the waning afternoon sun in Haiti, at approximately 4:53pm on January 12, 2010 – a violent earthquake struck the island. Registering as a 7.0 on the Richter scale, the quake caused widespread destruction all across the island and sent tremors outward felt as far away as Tampa, Florida, eastern Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Jamaica. Damage and casualties were especially prevalent in the Port-au-Prince area where death tolls still rise and thousands upon thousands are missing. At last check, preliminary tolls appear to be near if not over 100,000 in dead and missing, although alternate estimates range from 30,000 to 50,000. Being so close in time to the event, actual numbers are quite uncertain.

Magnitude 7.0
Date-Time Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 4:53:10
Location 18.457°N, 72.533°W
Depth 13 km (8.1 miles)
Distances 25 km (15 miles) WSW of PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti
  130 km (80 miles) E of Les Cayes, Haiti
  150 km (95 miles) S of Cap-Haitien, Haiti
  1125 km (700 miles) SE of Miami, Florida
Parameters NST=312, Nph=312, Dmin=143.7 km, Rmss=0.93 sec, Gp= 25°,
  M-type=teleseismic moment magnitude (Mw), Version=9
Event ID us2010rja6

The earthquake was caused due to a sudden shift in the fault separating the North American plate and the Caribbean plate. Haiti sits on the invisible boundary between the two. Although the normal slip, or movement, of the plates is only about 20mm per year, the sudden shift resulted in the catastrophic event that unfolded that day. The shift was not a large shift to basic perception, but even the smallest sudden shift in plate tectonics can have deadly consequences.

The region is not unfamiliar to quakes in general. Although quakes of this size haven’t occurred in over a hundred years, it is not uncommon. Below is a list of notable quakes which have occurred in Haiti and the rest of the Caribbean.

Martinique region, Windward Islands 11/29/2007 Magnitude 7.4 Deaths: 1 Info
Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean 09/10/2006 Magnitude 5.8 Deaths: 0 Info
Cayman Islands, Caribbean 12/14/2004 Magnitude 6.8 Deaths: 0 Info
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 11/21/2004 Magnitude 6.3 Deaths: 1 n/a
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 10/08/1974 Magnitude 7.5 Deaths: 0 Info
Guadeloupe, Leeward Islands 12/25/1969 Magnitude 7.2 Deaths: 0 n/a
Samana, Dominican Republic 08/04/1946 Magnitude 8.0 Deaths: 100* Info
Mona Passage, Caribbean 10/11/1918 Magnitude 7.5 Deaths: 116 Info
Kingston, Jamaica 01/14/1907 Magnitude 6.5 Deaths: 1,000* n/a
Puerto Rico region, Caribbean 11/18/1867 Magnitude n/a Deaths: n/a Info
Leeward Islands region, Caribbean 02/08/1843 Magnitude 8.3* Deaths: 5,000* n/a
Puerto Rico region, Caribbean 05/02/1787 Magnitude 8.0* Deaths: n/a Info
Jamaica region, Caribbean 06/07/1692 Magnitude n/a Deaths: 2,000* Info
* Denotes Estimated

International efforts have began to take influence in the region. Former United States president, Bill Clinton, has spent time in the area devastated by the quake – inciting that people from the United States and around the world pitch in and help with what they can. He asked everyone to get in contact with relief agencies and donate what they can – but stated that what is needed most is not food or supplies, nor clothing or aid in rescue efforts – but to donate money to the relief agencies. He cited that money is what is needed most at this time. Clinton also beckoned other world leaders to do what they can – to donate aid in any way they could be it helicopters, doctors, equipment to dig through rubble – anything.

Current United States president Obama has made several remarks regarding the devastation, promising a “swift, coordinated and aggressive response” from the United States. Obama also asked other world leaders to fulfill obligations to donate aid to the country in peril.

A parallel statement by former president Clinton stated, “Most countries are way behind on fulfilling it. … If you can provide any emergency help, if you can give us helicopters or basic medical supplies — we need that.”

Although the grinding of these two plates don’t affect most of the United States in ways like it did Haiti, North Americans are still quite vulnerable to earthquakes. Another blog post I’ve done outlines one of the potentially devastating fault zones in the U.S., the New Madrid Fault Zone. View This Article.

For those which have loved ones in the region: President Obama is urging Americans trying to locate family in Haiti to telephone the State Department at 1-888-407-4747.

For any parties which know more about the situation than is posted here: I would love to hear from you. If you have any additional, credible information or a way for non-American individuals to find family in Haiti, send me an email with what you know and I’ll gladly append it to this post and credit you. For others, I would love to hear your feedback on the information posted here. Was it helpful to you? Was it accurate? Just use the comment feature and let me know!

New Fault Discovered in Arkansas

7 04 2009

The following post is NOT MY WORK! I stress this because I am not the one to take credit for it whatsoever! I have posted at the bottom of the article a link to the original page which I retrieved it from. Let’s just say I’m “Retweeting” it – WordPress Style.

“Scientists believe that an unknown fault in eastern Arkansas could eventually trigger a magnitude 7.0 earthquake with an epicenter near a major natural gas pipeline.” ~ Original Author

From the Associated Press:

Haydar Al-Shukri, the director of the Arkansas Earthquake Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said the fault is separate from the New Madrid fault responsible for a series of quakes in 1811-12 that caused the Mississippi River to flow backward.

Acres of cotton fields cover the fault west of Marianna, about 100 miles east of Little Rock, but stretches of fine sand mixed with fertile soil gave away the fault’s location, Al-Shukri said. Liquefied sand bubbled up through cracks in the earth, while ground radar and digs showed vents that let the sand reach the surface, he said.

The fault, likely created in the last 5,000 years, sparked at least one magnitude 7 earthquake in its history. Such temblors cause massive destruction in their wake.

“This is a very, very dangerous (area) at risk of earthquake,” Al-Shukri said. “When you talk about (magnitude) 7 and plus, this is going to be a major disaster.”

Al-Shukri did not identify a time frame for the potential earthquake.

Such a quake would affect Little Rock and neighboring states such as Tennessee and Mississippi, Al-Shukri said.

The researcher has said a gas pipeline crossed the newly discovered fault. He declined to name the company that owned the pipeline. Al-Shukri had said in a speech at the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service that the company was building a large line through the area, mirroring the old one’s path.

A map made by the Arkansas Public Service Commission shows an Arkla Energy Resources pipe in the area. A spokeswoman for CenterPoint Energy Inc., which owns Arkla, said Wednesday that the company worked closely with public officials to prepare response plans for earthquakes and other natural disasters.”

Original Author’s Page

Tennessee Valley – The Time Bomb?

7 04 2009

You watch it all the time at the movies. Perhaps, you watch it on the news too. You hear about the disasters and the after-effects of them. They are earthquakes. If you are reading this blog and you are a resident of the Southeastern United States, then you are definately in the right region for a risk of a major quake. Given, we haven’t had a major earthquake in the Southeastern United States since 1812. Back then, they did not record the intensities of earthquakes on what is now the Richter Scale – instead, geologists take into account the damage that was left behind, the changes in the topography of the land, eye-witness accounts and other like factors. They estimated that the quake would have been classified as a “Mega-Quake” with an intensity of over 8.0.

Image displays the location of the New Madrid Fault Line.

The effects of the quake were so intense that the massive Mississippi River completely shifted course and Lakes (such as Lake Reelfoot, TN) were formed from massive sinkholes. Citizens several hundred miles from the massive quake’s epicenter felt the vibrations of the disaster, as far away as Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky and Indiana. The intensity was so startling, that church bells in Boston, MA rang with the shockwaves from the massive quake. So is the quake a “once-in-a-lifetime” event? Perhaps. The average lifetime is 72 years and it happened 197 years ago – so we could be due for another giant quake.

Image displays both earthquakes of 1995 in CA and in 1895 in Missouri along the New Madrid Fault – the colors displayed are the damage spreads of each.

Not only do we have to worry about the New Madrid Fault – we also have, in our area, the Appalacian Fault and the Bermuda Fault. Areas in Northern Alabama (Huntsville, Anniston, Cullman, Florence, Athens, Scottsboro, Decatur) are particularly in the danger zone of the Appalacian Fault stretching southwest from the feet of the Appalacian Mountains. Although no “Massive” quakes have been recorded from the zone, hunderds of smaller quakes have happened. Usually 3-4 times a year, the zone in the northeastern 75 miles of the state recieve a weak earthquake, usually in the 2.0 – 3.5 range on the Richter Scale. This is not a large number, barely noticable to most and usually only causes minimal damage to perhaps windows, loose or unstable chimneys to name a couple. Just because a significant earthquake has not happened in northeast Alabama from the Appalacian Fault does not mean that it can’t — or won’t.

Image displays the number of confirmed earthquakes in the New Madrid Region only since 1974.

Slightly more prone to a larger quake are those persons whom dwell and reside in the southern extent of Alabama (Dothan, Greenville, Montgomery, Selma, Mobile) from a large grouping of fault lines known as the Bermuda Fault Zone. The area stretches from slightly south of Birmingham, AL southward into the Florida Panhandle. Several quakes are recorded each year – ranging from 2.0 all the way up to 4.5 (as in the case of the earthquake just to the east of Birmingham not too long ago).

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image displays the spread of damage extending far from the epicenter.

Although the worst case scenario would likely be a quake much like the one of 1812, quakes of that intensity are rare and infrequent. Residents of the Tennessee Valley shouldn’t move out of the southeast just because of the earthquake “potential”, you’ll find that anywhere. Remember, if you get woke up at night because your house is vibrating, it’s likely just a small and common quake (or your spouse is REALLY putting too much time into mechanical engineering). I hope you have enjoyed this article and if you like it, please pass it on and comment on it. I would greatly appreciate it.

Derrick Wales