Science: Wake Up, East And Midwest

The next Big One may not hit California after all

The sleepy cotton fields around New Madrid, Mo. (pop. 3,400), convey no sense of seismic menace. Yet scientists say the area is potentially one of the most dangerous earthquake zones in the world. Early in the past century an unseen fault, obscured by tons of sediment, unleashed a fearsome trio of tremors -- each as powerful, some say, as the earthquake that virtually destroyed San Francisco in 1906. The eyewitness accounts read like the tall tales of Baron Munchhausen. The ground rippled with waves as though it were an ocean. The Mississippi River raged with waterfalls and rapids. Fountains of sand...

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