It starts with the dogs. They won't stop barking. And then the earth shrugs8.9 on the Richter scale. It's the world's biggest earthquake since Lisbon in 1755, and it doesn't hit California or Japan or Mexico, but New Madrid, Missouri, a sleepy town on the Mississippi River. Seismologists had predicted the scope of the disaster . . . but no one listened.
For hundreds of miles around, dams burst, engulfing entire counties in tidal waves of mud and debris. Cities collapse into piles of brick and shards of glass. Hospitals and schools crumble. Bridges twist and snap, spilling rush-hour traffic into rivers already swollen with bodies. Within minutes, there is nothing but chaos and ruin from St. Louis to Vicksburg, from Kansas City to Louisville. Every bridge down, every highway torn, every house gone.
America's heartland has fallen into the nightmare known as the Rifta fault line in the earth that wrenchingly exposes the fractures in American society itself. As a strange white mist smelling of sulfur rises from the crevassed ground, the real terror begins for the survivors, who will soon envy the dead, including:
Jason Adams, a teenager separated from his mother;
Nick Ruford, an African-American engineer searching for his estranged daughter;
Noble Frankland, the TV preacher whose visions of hell have become all too real;
Larry Hallock, a technician working frantically to prevent a nuclear meltdown at his power station;
and Omar Paxton, a sheriff and Ku Klux Klansman who seeks racial vengeance in the turmoil of disaster.
Walter J. Williams has created a modern American disaster saga, a story based on terrifying fact, filled with nonstop action, and peopled with characters who are heartbreakingly real. Witnessing authentic heroes surfacing in the unlikeliest places, you will share their horror, feel their despair, and triumph with them in their struggle to survive. One thing you will know for sure: It con happen here. And sooner or later, it will.
A Disaster Waiting to Happen
It was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who finally made the Swampeast habitable. Just south of Cape Girardeau the levee line began, to Continue 2,200 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The levees kept the floodwaters Out. During the decades of prosperity, the farmers had forgotten the conditions under which they had prospered were artificial. Southeastern Missouri was as artificial as the Washington Monument, the St. Louis Gateway Arch, or the space shuttle, and like these, existed as a monument to the ingenuity of humankind. The land there had been manufactured.
But that which is artificial occupies a precarious position in the world of nature. Its existence depends upon the maintenance of the conditions under which it was designed. The Mississippi River's levee system was built with the understanding that two things would remain constant: The flood waters would not rise much higher than they had in the past, and the land on which the levees were built would not move of its own accord. The first of these constants was violated regularly. The result was a greater commitment to reinforced levees. The second constant, the requirement that the earth not move, had not been tested.
Though such a test, as history showed, was inevitable.