If quake hit Illinois, 'it would be the worst day'

If quake hit Illinois, 'it would be the worst day'

SPRINGFIELD — Floods, high winds, drought, tornados, blizzards, a polar vortex ... Illinois has had its share of natural disasters, and we're talking 11 of them declared in the past five years.

Now state emergency responders are preparing for what could be the mother of all disasters — an earthquake — though chances of one ever happening are a lot slimmer than other disasters that have come Illinois' way in recent memory.

An earthquake is lower probability, "but there's nothing that would be higher impact," said Jonathon Monken, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

"If we see it, it would be the worst day," he said.

So the state is spending this week getting prepared, along with seven other states — Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

This week is the culmination of a three-year, multistate planning and preparedness initiative called CAPSTONE-14, which is testing state, federal and private-sector capabilities to respond to and recover from a catastrophic earthquake in the New Madrid and Wabash Valley seismic zones.

An earthquake comes without warning, and a large-scale earthquake would cause massive destruction, affect millions of people and seriously damage or destroy communication and transportation infrastructure, Monken said.

It would also call for something other recent-year disasters largely haven't in Illinois — the need to bring in assets from other states, he said.

"It would be all hands on deck," Monken said.

Monken said the CAPSTONE-14 exercise, going on through Friday, is one of the largest homeland security or emergency management exercise ever conducted. Illinois is conducting its training in Springfield with nearly 200 people participating.

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