Thirty years later, ‘Earthquake Day’ prediction still shakes up memories in Memphis and the Mid-South


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Flashback to Dec. 3, 1990. It was exactly 30 years ago today when the earth didn’t move here in the Mid-South.

A wild prediction of a major earthquake on the New Madrid Fault by Dr. Iben Browning caused widespread panic. Browning said a peak in “earth tides” that day would trigger the quake.

Some folks decided to pack up and move. Businesses and factories closed, sending workers home for the day. Many schools and daycares also closed, and those that didn’t held earthquake drills to prepare students — just in case the worst happened.

But it didn’t.

Instead, the event is now mostly remembered now for bringing the issue of earthquake safety to everyone’s attention.

And of course, as Memphians always do, we found plenty of humor in the dire prediction.

Thousands of people bought novelty products, like these earthquake T-shirts that asked “Are you staying or are you leaving?”

There were oddities like Seizmic earthquake repellent. The label says “a few quick squirts keeps those nasty earthquakes away.”

There was even a nightclub called The Fault Line in East Memphis where you could order an Earthquake Shake at the bar, or do the Crack Dance” on the dance floor.

But life quickly went back to normal and 30 years later, we’re still waiting for Dr. Browning’s big quake.

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