A little information about earthquakes
As you probably know, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake has devastated the tiny country of Haiti. The quake was centered about 10 miles WSW of Port-au-Prince. This earthquake was centered on activity along the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden fault and has been locked for the last 250 years.
To put the magnitude of this earthquake in perspective, you have to understand the numbers. A magnitude 1 earthquake is a light earthquake that happens all the time. As you move up the scale the strength of each earthquake increases by a magnitude of 10. That means that a magnitude 2 earthquake on the Richter scale is 10 times stronger than a magnitude 1 earthquake. The quake that shook Haiti was 1-million times stronger than a magnitude 1 earthquake. Those numbers are devastating.
Southern Missouri has had its own runs with strong earthquakes as well. The New Madrid Fault has been very active in the past. The fault caused four of the largest North American earthquakes in recorded history with magnitudes of 8.0between December of 1811 and February of 1812. More recently, a magnitude 5.4 earthquake shook the region centered around Bellmont, IL on April 18, 2008.
Research published by scientists from Northwestern University and the University of Missouri in November 2009 states that recent activity is likely long-term aftershocks of the 1811-1812 earthquakes. That same group of researches indicate that there is no major movement in the fault.
While extreme earthquakes like the one that hit Haiti may seem rare, major earthquakes rumble the Earth on a yearly and monthly basis. It is a question of whether they will strike in populated areas.