Perhaps you saw the news that hundreds of tremors have been hitting the area around the tiny hamlet of Guy, Arkansas. These are small, mostly 2-3 on the Richter scale, causing no damage and only mild interest amongst the locals. Even so, media reports are talking about earthquakes– I guess it makes a better story, and strictly speaking most any shake is a quake.
Anyway, that news caught my eye because over in Northeast Texas, Caddo Lake straddles the Texas-Louisiana border. Local legend says that the lake was formed by the New Madrid earthquake of 1812. The quake, indeed, may have had something to with forming the basin, but credit for filling it with water goes to a huge, natural logjam. The “Great Raft” logjam was 100 miles (160 km) long, backing up water on the Red River, so that low areas and basins, large and small, became swamps and lakes. We’ll come back to the “Great Raft” another time– it had quite an effect on local life.
In any event, earthquake or logjam, there you have it, Caddo Lake, a peaceful and picturesque place with Spanish moss dripping from trees. Appropriately enough, given what we don’t know for sure about how Caddo Lake originated, the town next to the lake is called Uncertain. That’s right: Uncertain, Texas.
Many years ago, I stopped at Uncertain and visited Caddo Lake. I sat on a dock, dangling my feet in the water, patting a friendly dog named McDuff and watching a couple of fellows fishing in their john-boat. I took this photo as a steam-powered paddle boat, “Graceful Ghost”, glided by at a leisurely pace. Other than blowing its horn once, the only noise made by the Ghost was the soft splasing of the paddle wheel.
[Sidebar: This was in 1995, and a local Uncertain store was offering petro for the outrageously high price of $1.30/gallon. Today, with regular petro going for almost $3, I would be glad to pay their paltry price!]
UPDATE: (Courtesy of The New York Times, February 28, 2011)
A 4.7-magnitude earthquake that researchers described as the largest in Arkansas in 35 years was recorded late Sunday night near Greenbrier. It was the latest in a swarm of quakes that has bedeviled the region since early last fall.
There were no reports of major damage, though some residents spoke of dislodged screen doors and cracked ceilings. Damage or not, some said this was the longest and scariest quake yet.
UPDATE: Yesterday, March 11, a huge earthquake, 8.9, hit Japan. In this morning’s (March 12) New York Times, there is an article about preparedness for earthquakes. In that article, this part caught my eye:
Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, warned that an earthquake in the United States along the New Madrid fault, which caused strong earthquakes early in the 19th century, could kill tens, or even hundreds of thousands of people in the more densely populated cities surrounding the Mississippi River.