Top 5 Earthquake Risks in the United States (Not on the Pacific)

Top 5 Earthquake Risks in the United States (Not on the Pacific)

Believe it or not, there are several places in the United States lower 48 that are at a rather reasonable risk of having a significant earthquake other than Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii, or Alaska.

While many of the largest and most destructive earthquakes in U.S. history have come from those 5 states, there are some other hot spots that could awaken at any time.

5. The Great Plains

There is a mild risk of earthquakes that stretches from around Lincoln, Nebraska to Oklahoma City. This area of the Great Plains is not what you might first think of when considering the risk of earthquakes in the Central United States, but it is there. My guess is that people in these parts would first assume that a twister was coming rather than an earthquake. That is, unless it is winter.

All three states (Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma) have a little history with earthquakes above 5.0 on the Richter scale, so we know it can happen.

4. Upper New England

There is risk of a major future earthquake in upper New England, particularly in areas close to the St. Lawrence river like upstate New York or upper Maine. Is there another little hotspot in the area? Boston. Yikes, that wouldn’t be good. A mild hurricane now and then is OK. But an earthquake in this city would be bad news.

There haven’t been any really big quakes recorded here but the area is active and a big shaker could be on the way. History shows past earthquakes in Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York above 5.0 on the Richter scale.

3. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah

Long known as a hotbed of seismic activity, the mountain states of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah contain all sorts of activity from hot springs to geysers to volcanoes. But a major earthquake could hit next. Maybe we should stop worrying about the massive super volcano exploding in Yellowstone and prepare for an earthquake instead.

There is recent history of a big quake in this area. In 1959 a 7.5 quake hit just along the western border of Yellowstone National Park, near the border of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

2. South Carolina

This may take many people (outside of South Carolina) by surprise, but South Carolina is a small but powerful hotspot that could trigger a major United States earthquake at some point in the future. We often think of the California coast falling to the sea after a major quake, but I wouldn’t want to be on Hilton Head when a big one strikes here.

The last really big earthquake to hit South Carolina was in Charleston in 1886, measuring a 7.3 on the Richter scale. A similar quake would be much more devastating today.

1. New Madrid

Top 5 Earthquake Risks in the United States (Not on the Pacific)

Possibly the biggest risk of a major earthquake in the United States sits right in the middle of the country at the New Madrid fault. Located near the point where Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas meet, the New Madrid fault is the spot most often mentioned as the source of a future catastrophic earthquake.

The New Madrid fault has some history too. In 1811 and 1812 a series of earthquakes measured around 7.5 on the Richter scale, the largest ever recorded in the eastern United States. Because of the geological structure of the Midwest and its conduciveness to carrying tremors long distances, these earthquakes could be felt as far away as Maine.

In 2011 and 2012, the 200th anniversary of the New Madrid earthquake is celebrated.

So there you have it, five places that don’t touch the Pacific ocean that may produce the next big earthquake.