Speed Reads

a whole lot of shaking going on

New USGS earthquake hazard map shows increased risks for many parts of the U.S.

A seismic hazard map released Thursday by the U.S. Geological Survey might not be able to precisely say when The Big One will hit, but it does give insight into the intensity of potential earthquakes.

The threat of earthquakes remains the highest along the West Coast, Intermountain West, and parts of the central and eastern United States, the Los Angeles Times reports. "While all states have some potential for earthquakes, 42 of the 50 states have a reasonable chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years — the typical lifetime of a building," the USGS said in a statement. The states with the highest risk are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

The maps are used by insurers, municipal planners, and emergency response agencies in an attempt to limit damages and loss of life, and the last USGS map came out in 2008. Since then, data and earthquake models have come up with new projections for several areas — for instance, the 2011 5.8 magnitude quake in Virginia "helped determine that even larger events are possible," the USGS said. The scariest forecast? A 9.3 magnitude tremor hitting the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which could impact Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.