JSU Newswire
Jacksonville, Alabama

JSU Geography Professor
Discusses Jacksonville Fault Line

Jamie M. Eubanks
JSU News Bureau

JACKSONVILLE -- March 14, 2001 -- Some talk show hosts are calling it an "earthquake storm."

The year 2001 has already produced several magnitude 7 earthquakes or higher. These included a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in India and the most recent Seattle, Washington quake; whereas, 2001 produced very few that were not widely noted.

Are there more quakes this year? Are we due for one locally?

"This number is no higher than any other year," says Dr. Kelly Gregg, Associate Professor of Geography at JSU.

"About every three weeks, a major earthquake occurs," comments Gregg. "Most of them are in remote areas or directly follow another major quake. In these cases, news media don't cover them as expansively. Thus, information about them is not spread."

As for the Washington earthquake, geologists were looking closely at the focus of the quake. Mount Rainier, a very large volcano, is located just 95 miles south of Seattle. If that quake had had a shallow focus, there might have been a threat of eruption from Rainier. Shallow focus quakes indicate lava flow beneath the earth's crust.

But the Washington quake was deep, which occurs when one plate of the earth's crust is pushed deeply below another plate as they collide. It caused massive structural damage and registered 6.8 on the Richter Scale.

Closer to home, a fault runs directly through the Jacksonville State University campus. To geologists in this area, it is called the Jacksonville Fault. Though now dormant, this fault was once very active.

"Millions of years ago, many volcanoes and earthquakes made living here very interesting," comments Gregg.

The Jacksonville Fault actually created the Choccolocco Mountains. The fault carries runoff water in the area.

There is also a major fault line that runs diagonally from Arkansas through Tennessee and on to Missouri. In the early 1800's this fault produced a massive earthquake that violently shook the area. It was so extensive that church bells rang in Massachusetts and the Mississippi River ran backwards.

To this day, the fault is still active, but not as dynamic.

Geologically, the earth is right on course for the year, although many of the quakes seem to be occurring in not so sparsely populated areas. In fact, they're happening in the most densely populated ones.


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