Risk for AL quakes low, but preparations still made - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Risk for AL quakes low, but preparations still made

The largest earthquake in Alabama happened in Birmingham in 1916. (Source: AlabamaQuake) The largest earthquake in Alabama happened in Birmingham in 1916. (Source: AlabamaQuake)

More than 60 earthquakes have hit Northern California in the last week alone.

About 160 people were injured when the quake rocked the wine country Sunday morning. Scientists said aftershocks could follow for the next several weeks.

This earthquake is the largest to shake the San Francisco Bay Area since 1989. California's governor has declared a state of emergency.

AlabamaQuake.com founder Steve Jones said he's paying attention to what's going on in California, but he doesn't foresee it having an impact on whether we see a quake here in our state.

[Alabama Emergency Operations Plan (pdf)]

Jones has tracked earthquakes across Alabama and the rest of the globe for years. He said after decades of research scientists, have still not come up with a great way to predict them.

According to the United States Geological Survey, there have been more than 300 earthquakes in the last week alone with at least 2.5 magnitude.

"In an average day, the USGS tracks 150 to 200 earthquakes every day down to the magnitude one-point-zero," Jones explained. "In the United States we'll see 100 to 150 earthquakes."

The closest quake to Huntsville hit along the Alabama and Tennessee state line north of Florence back on March 17. It registered a 2.3 magnitude. Jones said researchers aren't ruling out a destructive quake in our region.

"The largest quake we've ever had in Alabama is a 5.1 in Birmingham back in 1916, and the largest in North Alabama is from 2003, when a 4.9 hit the Fort Payne community," Jones said.

Despite the low risk, Alabama state agencies have trained for disaster relief if something ever hits.

A state emergency management official said they have a disaster plan. However, that plan was not readily available on their website. In a statement, the official said:

The Alabama Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) takes an all-hazards approach to preparedness and mitigation procedures. Should Alabama be significantly impacted by an earthquake, we will follow the guidelines set forth by our State Emergency Operations Plan. The top priority of AEMA is the life safety of Alabama's citizens. Additionally, ensuring successful response to and recovery from any incident that impacts the lives of the citizens of Alabama is this agency's ultimate goal. AEMA works closely with the seismic experts at the Geological Survey of Alabama to ensure coordination procedures are in place for AEMA to provide the best response and recovery actions and to meet the needs of Alabama's citizens following an earthquake. Alabama is also one of eight member states of the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC). AEMA works with CUSEC on planning, preparedness and coordinating response with neighboring states for an event that impacts multiple states.

We are still working to have a hard copy of the AEMA disaster plan provided to share.

We do know some of what state and local agencies have done to prepare, from a shakeout drill - a drill specifically designed for earthquake response. 

"The threat is definitely there from everything we've read and studied," said HEMSI's Don Webster. "I always just try to figure out my own reaction, my personal reaction. If you and I are standing here doing this interview and we start swaying. What do you do? You duck and run."

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