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Local expert weighs in on earthquake awareness and preparedness


February is National Earthquake Awareness Month and a local expert said it’s important to be prepared for a major earthquake as the Commonwealth is located around several major fault lines.

Dr. Jen O’Keefe is a Professor of Geology and Science Education in the Department of Engineering Sciences at Morehead State University. She said the fault lines impacting those in Rowan County are located along the eastern coast of the United States. She said, like human faults, they are old remnant zones of weakness.

“Our New Madrid seismic zone, which is a leftover zone of weakness from ancient episodes of rifting and compression. The rocks are just absolutely sheared to pieces in the middle of the continent,” said O’Keefe.

The New Madrid Seismic zone is in Western Kentucky. Experts said a major earthquake in that region would affect all of Kentucky and several surrounding states.

In 1980, an earthquake in Sharpsburg was felt in Rowan County and in 2011 tremors from an earthquake in Virginia were felt locally. Both events were at least a 5 on the Richter scale.

O’Keefe added being prepared for an earthquake is straightforward.

“Make sure you have a personal emergency preparedness plan, just like for any other emergency. Know where your documents are, know the safest way to get out of your house, also know where to go to protect yourself in the event of significant shaking,” said O’Keefe.

Kentucky Emergency Management recommended putting together an emergency safety kit consisting of food, water, medicines, flashlights, radio, extra batteries, matches, and candles. Some earthquake-specific advice includes securing bookcases with heavy objects on them to a wall.

More information regarding Kentucky earthquake activity can be found here.