This was my second visit to Kentucky, because I had once changed planes at Cincinnati airport. “What?”, I hear you say. “Cincinnati is in Ohio, not Kentucky”. That’s true, but Cincinnati airport is in neighboring Kentucky, so, strictly speaking, I had already been to Kentucky once before. (Ohio, on the other hand, I have yet to visit – but plan to pass through later in this trip.)
To visit Kentucky on this trip, I decided to make a short detour north of Memphis to visit a geographic anomaly: The “Kentucky Bend“. This is a small portion of Kentucky that is almost completely surrounded by the Mississippi River, and is accessible by land only from Tennessee.
The Kentucky Bend is a flat, flood-prone piece of farmland, and hardly seems representative of Kentucky as a whole. (When one thinks of “Kentucky”, one imagines rolling hills.) Kentucky is definitely one state that I hope to explore in more detail in some future trip.
Just north of here, across the Mississippi River, is the small town of New Madrid, Missouri, which is famous in its own right, for a series of powerful earthquakes in 1811-1812. These earthquakes were as strong as an estimated magnitude 8.1! Although earthquakes occur far more frequently along the West Coast (at the edge of the North American Plate), there are also fault lines at some places – such as here – inside the plate, and these, too, can produce major earthquakes – just not as frequently.
Nobody knows, of course, when an earthquake this strong will strike this area again; it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Back in 1811-1812, this area was very sparsely populated. But if such an earthquake were to happen again today, it would likely be the most expensive natural disaster in US history. Buildings in this part of the country aren’t built to earthquake codes like they are in California. There are many masonry buildings (which are damaged easily in earthquakes), and all of the freeway overpasses here look very flimsy compared to those in California. Many, many buildings in Memphis and St. Louis would collapse for sure.