Faults Discovered North of Bootheel but They Aren't Cause for Alarm, State Geologist, Others Maintain

Article excerpt

Missouri geologists have found evidence of large earthquake faults about 20 miles north of the notorious New Madrid Fault.

The newly discovered faults, near Cape Girardeau, are called the English Hill Faults.

Scientists say it's too soon to tell whether the prehistoric faults raise the region's earthquake threat, but they might.

"This probably has the potential for producing large earthquakes because of the faulting we've seen," said Dave Hoffman, a geologist with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

But, Hoffman and others said in interviews Wednesday, the finding is not cause for alarm.

St. Louis University geophysics professor Robert Herrmann, a member of the Missouri Seismic Safety Commission, agreed. "This is just one of many pieces of the puzzle that have to be put together so that we really understand the earthquake problem here," Herrmann said.

The New Madrid Fault is a series of cracks in the Earth's crust. It is named for New Madrid, Mo., a town where one of many powerful earthquakes in 1811-1812 was centered. The fault zone zigzags for more than 100 miles from northeastern Arkansas, through the Missouri Bootheel and into the southern tip of Illinois.

Hoffman and three other geologists discovered the English Hill Faultsin May in the Benton Hills region just south of Cape Girardeau. They three are Jim Palmer and Jim Vaughn, who work with Hoffman at the Department of Natural Resources' division of geology and land survey, in Rolla, and Richard Harrison of the U.S. Geological Survey, in Reston, Va.

The scientists followed up on reports from the 1930s of "recent" faulting in the Benton Hills area. Keep in mind, when geologists say recent, they mean the earthquakes erupted sometime in the past 10,000 years. …