Because it was too close to the New Madrid Fault, I jokingly explained to the phone caller.That, and the fact that it was in Martin.Tennessee. And it was in late 1989 or early 1990, at the same time all this was going on. From Buzzfeed.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The third day of December 1990 was a Monday, but schools in the small southeast Missouri town of New Madrid were closed.
In fact, some 40,000 students in portions of Missouri and surrounding states — Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana — had the day off, and some districts had canceled Tuesday and Wednesday as well. The reasons given by school officials varied. Some said the cancellations were made out of an abundance of caution, or in response to community pressure. Others said that even if schools had remained open, many kids would have been absent anyway, because their parents wanted to keep them at home, or had decided to leave the area. The closings had been announced weeks, in some cases even months, beforehand.
“People all over town were packing up their china and they were screwing things to the wall,” recalls New Madrid resident Sandy Hill. National Guard units in Missouri and Arkansas had spent the prior weekend conducting preparedness drills. Emergency management offices had been swamped with thousands of calls.
In downtown New Madrid (pronounced MAD-rid), however, there was plenty of activity along Main Street. The typically sleepy town of about 3,000 was suddenly packed with personnel from more than 200 news organizations from around the world, along with at least 30 satellite trucks. Then there were the street preachers pronouncing it the end of the world and the thrill-seekers who wanted to be able to say they’d been there, in that town on that date. For some, it was a good excuse to celebrate. The local museum sold commemorative T-shirts, and restaurants added specials to the menu. One downtown bar held a daylong party.
The reason for the contradictory scene was this: New Madrid is the namesake of a seismic zone spanning several states in the lower Midwest and South that was the site of some of the largest earthquakes in recorded North American history. And about a year earlier, a self-styled climatologist named Iben Browning had predicted a 50% chance of another one on Monday, Dec. 3, 1990, give or take a couple days.