Did You Know That Kentucky Has Been Rocked by Record Earthquakes?

The New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812 were the largest earthquakes ever recorded in the eastern United States. The epicenters of the quakes were only a few miles south of the southwestern tip of Kentucky. At least four separate earthquakes were recorded. The largest would have registered greater than 8.0 on the Richter scale, and had modified Mercali Intensities of 10 to 11. Mercali intensities of 7 to 8 are considered disasterous. The quakes created ground breaks and scarps across a 48,000 square-kilometer area of the Mississippi Valley. The shocks from these earthquakes were felt as far away as New Hampshire! Minor structural damage was noted as far north as St. Louis, and as far east as Cincinnati. Today, the impacts of such a quake would be much greater. Seismologists closely monitor the New Madrid area in hopes that they can anticipate future large earthquakes, because many more people now live in this region.


  • Information for this web page came from Living in Earthquake Country, a booklet produced by the Kentucky Geological Survey and Disaster and Emergency Services, Commonwealth of Kentucky. The pamphlet can be obtained for free from the Kentucky Geological Survey.
  • Street R.L., and Nuttli, O. W., 1990, The Great Central Mississippi Valley Earthquakes of 1811-1812: Kentucky Geological Survey, Special Publication 14, Series 11, 15 p.


Last Modified on 2023-01-05
Back to Top