Congressional Members to Host Earthquake Hearing in St. Louis

FEBRUARY 21, 2006 - Posted at 4:17 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS, MO - Southeast Missouri Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson will join a panel of congressmen for a field hearing of the U.S. House's Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on February 24 in St. Louis.  U.S. Senator Jim Talent of Missouri will testify before the committee about the importance of earthquake preparedness all along the New Madrid Fault, which runs through much of northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri.

"Planning and preparedness are going to save lives in the New Madrid Seismic Zone if and when a major earthquake occurs," Emerson said.  "We cannot allow a repeat of the failures that took place after Hurricane Katrina on federal, state and local levels.  And unlike a hurricane, an earthquake cannot be forecast and gives no warning.  At the very first moment we know an earthquake is occuring, we must be in response mode."

Emerson and Talent have argued in Congress for a full inventory of earthquake response resources and a comprehensive preparedness exercise that would include federal, state and local entities.

"We need a full scale test of our reaction so we can access where our weaknesses are," said Emerson.  "Right now, I am afraid there are a lot of weaknesses in our region, and there is a lot to account for.  Only one bridge between St. Louis and Memphis is built to withstand a magnitude 6.0 earthquake, and it is in Cape Girardeau.  We have a critical crossroads of interstate highway, river, rail and pipeline transportation."

In the House, Emerson has funded a working group of congressmen from six states in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.