One good shake and it#039;s beach-front for me

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 29, 2003

By now, everyone's heard the news about the big shakeup in north Alabama. I mean, it's not often that Alabama gets a shake from mother nature. Well, at least of the earth shaking type. But, that's just what happened Tuesday morning as thousands of Alabama residents were literally shaken to their feet by a maginitude 4.9 earthquake near Fort Payne.

As odd as it was, earthquakes aren't unheard of in Alabama. In fact, just a few years ago in 1997, south Alabama was given quite a shaking when another 4.9 maginitude earthquake struck near the Brewton area - giving residents in Covington County a little something to feel as well.

And believe it or not, there are constantly smaller earthquakes of maginitude 2 or lower occuring more frequently than you think.

Does this mean we're in line for the big one? Probably not, but I do remember a few years back, when I was in high school, the talk of the next really big earthquake was dominating the airwaves.

But do you remember that the talk was about an earthquake not in California, but instead along the Mississippi River and the New Madrid Fault? That's right, around Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri - areas not too far from here.

Parents were concerned. Someone even tried to predict the quake, and thousands of children were kept out of school for a day, businesses closed up and people prepared for the end.

It didn't happen. That's not to say it won't. It has before, and not too many years ago. Only a little more than a hundred to be exact.

The whole New Madrid earthquake prediction was centered around the last major quake in that area in 1811 which temporarily caused the Mississippi River to flow backwards for a while and an island to completely disappear from the river.

And that got me to thinking, with today's quake, and memories of the "tremors" of the Brewton quake, and the scare of the "Memphis doomsday quake" still alive in my memory, I wondered, "How common are earthquakes in Alabama?"

I quickly rushed to the Internet to find the answer, and just as I thought, there was the answer.

Apparently, earthquakes aren't uncommon things in Alabama, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In fact, seismographs are so sensitive, hundreds of quakes are detected each year - we just can't feel them. Odds are, while you're reading this, another earthquake could be occurring at this very moment in Alabama, heck, even here in Covington County.

The USGS is quick to point out however that Alabama is one of the most geologically sound areas in the world, and that major quakes are a rarity, but not unheard of.

So I guess that means with a little more shaking down around Brewton and the Pensacola area, we could all have beach front property?