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Seismologist At IU Believes Planning Best Way To Mitigate Quake Damage

Last updated on Monday, April 13, 2009

(BLOOMINGTON) - Remember where you were at 5:37am on April 18th, 2008? Except for those who slept through it, last year’s earthquake left an impression.

And the experts say we should be ready for another one in another decade or so. Last year's quake had a magnitude of 5.2.

Geology professor Michael Hamburger at Indiana University in Bloomington says earthquakes of that size happen about every 10 to 15 years in Indiana. It was a modestly severe tremor that could have caused extensive damage in another location.

He says it's fortunate that it was centered in a largely rural area near West Salem, Illinois, about 40 miles north of Evansville.

That location is along the Wabash Valley fault zone, which is north of the well-known New Madrid fault. There were no reports of major damage in Indiana, although a building was damaged in Louisville, Kentucky.

Modern building codes include standards that make large buildings much less vulnerable to earthquakes.

But Professor Hamburger says any building erected prior to the 1970s may be an easy target for an earthquake. He says seismologists are not optimistic about the chances of forecasting earthquakes the way meteorologists forecast hurricanes for example.

But he says, "longer-term risk assessment to identify what areas are at greater risk" could help plan ways to "mitigate the effects of a large earthquake."

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