Effingham is too far north to bear the brunt of the devastation that would be caused by "The Big One" — a major earthquake along the New Madrid Fault.
"There's not much danger to us at all," said Russ Thomas, Effingham County Emergency Management Agency director. "We might have some cracked chimneys and foundations, but that's about it."
While cracked chimneys and foundations can be expensive to repair, it's nothing like the damage that would be prevalent closer to the fault — which runs from northeast Arkansas through the Boot Heel of southeast Missouri into deep southern Illinois. Parts of western Kentucky and Tennessee are also included in the earthquake zone.
Because the last major seismic event on the New Madrid Fault occurred slightly more than 200 years ago, experts are forecasting that areas close to the fault could be hit sometime in the next 50 years. The quake of 1811-12 had an estimated magnitude between 7.5 and 8.0 and was so strong that it dammed streams in west Tennessee to create Reelfoot Lake, and caused the formation of temporary waterfalls on the Mississippi River at Kentucky Bend.
But that's not going to happen in the Effingham area, Thomas said.
"We're not even required to address earthquakes in our emergency plan," he said.
If The Big One does hit, however, Effingham will serve as a reception area for those escaping the devastation that would result from a major earthquake along the fault line.
"We would be one of the reception areas, because we're at the intersection of two interstates," Thomas said. "We would be involved in finding motel rooms and shelter for people getting away from the damage."
Conversely, Thomas said, Effingham would also be a staging area for equipment headed south to help deal with the earthquake aftermath.
"We're talking about anything from dump trucks, to bulldozers, backhoes and utility trucks," he said.
Thomas added that the effect of a major New Madrid earthquake in Effingham would be similar to the effects of the 2008 quake that was centered near Mount Carmel. That quake had a magnitude of 5.2, but caused little damage in the Effingham area.
"The shaking we felt in Effingham during the 2008 quake would be the same as a major New Madrid quake," Thomas said.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or firstname.lastname@example.org.