People from Illinois to Arkansas are divided over whether a climatologist's scientifically shaky forecast of an earthquake during the next few days is cause to party or reason to get all shook up.

"I think we have everything in place," said Elaine Van Horn of Memphis, a believer whose family joined 11 others to put up a stockpile of emergency food and camping gear. "We've been working on this probably since about August."Others are amused.

A rock band called the Rhythm Hounds planned a "Shake, Rattle and Quake" night Sunday at the P&H Cafe, a Memphis beer hall. A pub called Zinnie's East advertised half-price specials Monday at an "It's Your Fault Earthquake Party."

In Falls City, Neb., the owner of a variety store recently ran this advertisement: "It's New Madrid's Fault: It's an Earthquake Sale, Nov. 26 to Dec. 8, if we're still here. We're shaking down our prices."

E-Day, if you will, is sometime around Monday. The New Madrid Fault runs from Cairo, Ill., to Marked Tree, Ark., about 35 miles east of Memphis.

"It's nonsense," said Brian Mitchell, director of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at St. Louis University. An advisory panel to the U.S. Geological Survey said Browning's forecast has no scientific merit. That word was tempered, however, with the warning that a quake could happen at any time. It's just that Dec. 3 has no special significance, the panel said.

Memphis, with 650,000 residents, is the closest big city to the fault, which produces more than 200 small earthquakes a year.



Strong tidal forces occur when the sun, Earth and moon are in alignment. These gravitational forces tug on the Earth's surface, creating higher than normal ocean tides.

Iben Browning's theory states that these tidal forces can also trigger earthquakes and influence volcanic activity.

Browning says an earthquake is likely on either Dec. 2 or 3 along the New Madrid Fault in Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, and along the Wasatch fault in Utah.