COLUMBIA — The New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12 were among the strongest in recorded history. Centered on a fault line south of St. Louis, the destructive quakes were felt as far away as Boston and caused sections of the Mississippi River to run backward.
According to the 2002 United States Geological Survey, there is a 25 percent to 40 percent chance of a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake along the New Madrid fault line in the next 50 years. A seismic event of that magnitude would cause extensive damage to Boone County. It would also be very expensive.
Representatives of Boone County and the cities within met Tuesday to review an update of the Boone County Hazard Mitigation Plan — a document that takes inventory of natural disasters that could affect Boone County. Earthquakes, tornadoes, floods and winter storms are just a few of the destructive scenarios anticipated in the plan.
The plan anticipates disasters in order to make them less costly. Since 2003, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has required local jurisdictions to have a mitigation plan on record to apply for certain types of disaster relief.
According to the draft plan, Boone County ranks fourth in the number of tornadoes in a Missouri county between 1950 and 2005; experienced 41 officially recorded winter storms from 1993 to 2008; and experienced its first known dam failure in March 2008 when Moon Valley Lake Dam in Columbia failed.
In the aftermath of future disasters, FEMA funds could be requested to offset costs incurred by local agencies. The agency also awards grants to offset the costs of anticipated disasters such as road upgrades at low water crossings, public tornado safe rooms and dam repairs.
Susan Galeota works for the Mid-Missouri Regional Planning Commission and has been working closely with county and city officials on the draft plan. Galeota said spending money before disasters occur amounts to savings in the long run.
"Every dollar spent on disaster mitigation is equivalent to spending $4 after the fact to deal with the disaster," she said, citing a 2006 study by the Institute of Building Science.
"Back in '93, we had a 500-year flood here," Galoeta said. "The economic impact of those kinds of disasters is huge."
Galeota said without a mitigation plan in place, local governments possibly would not be eligible to receive federal funding in anticipation of disasters.
FEMA requires an updated mitigation plan every five years. A draft of the Boone County Hazard Mitigation Plan is currently available online. The final plan is due to FEMA for review at the end of January 2010. The current plan expires in April.