Series of earthquakes shakes southeast Missouri

NEW MADRID COUNTY, Mo. – A series of five earthquakes shook the Missouri-Tennessee border Monday night into Tuesday over the course of nine hours, peaking at a magnitude of 3.1.

The earthquakes were recorded in Ridgely, Tennessee by the University of Memphis Center for Earthquake Research and Information. The earthquakes were documented as:

  • 7:11 p.m. — 1.5 magnitude (south of Ridgely, Tenn.)
  • 9:58 p.m. — 1.6 magnitude (south of Ridgely, Tenn.)
  • 3:00 a.m. — 2.6 magnitude (southeast of Ridgely, Tenn.)
  • 3:34 a.m. — 2.1 magnitude (southeast of Ridgely, Tenn.)
  • 3:40 a.m. — 3.1 magnitude (northwest of Newbern, Tenn.)

Dozens of people in the area felt the tremors, though no damage was reported. The area is home to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, one of the most active seismic areas in the United States. 

The area is most famous for the 7.0-plus earthquakes in 1811 and 1812 that changed the flow of the Mississippi River. Experts believe these types of earthquakes only occur every 500 years. 

Earthquakes occur when bedrock miles below the surface of the earth move along fault lines. In the case of the New Madrid Seismic Zone, a system of faults called the Reelfoot Rift caused tremors in the Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee tri-state area. The Reelfoot Rift formed around 500 million years ago as a result of the area’s movement. 

Typically an earthquake needs a magnitude above 5.0 to cause serious damage. For more information on earthquakes and earthquake safety, visit the Missouri Department of Natural Resources at

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