How common are earthquakes in the Spokane area?

How common are earthquakes in the Spokane area?

SPOKANE, Wash. – An 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Lincoln, Montana was felt around the Inland Northwest Wednesday night.

So how common are earthquakes in the Spokane area? The last major earthquake in Spokane happened in 2001. It was not just one but a swarm of earthquakes with the highest reaching a magnitude of 4.

A few years after it happened, the earthquake created a bulge just west of Division Street. The earthquake in 2001 made the earth's surface rise and experts said the bulge raised the surface about 15 millimeters.

"I think that's pretty amazing honestly. It's not like living in California, where they can have earthquakes with displacements on the order of meters. But still...it's not something that was expected,” said USGS Geologist Tom Frost.

Frost said based on news reports and seismograph readings over the years, Spokane has a pattern of earthquakes occurring every 20 to 25 years.  So they are uncommon in Spokane. But Frost said you never know when the next one will hit.

"Well because things could change. We can't predict them at this point, certainly not in an area like this where there's isn't the intense scrutiny of earthquakes that California gets," Frost explained.

Earthquakes that do happen in Spokane are shallow. Frost said the earthquake in 2001 was less than half a mile deep.

"What they felt like was as if, and you could hear them, it sounded like a truck hitting the side of your building. Very sharp and the reason they were so sharp was because they were so shallow," said Frost.

While earthquakes in Spokane may be uncommon, Frost said the hazard level of one is low but not zero. That is why he said to tie down your water heater and know how to turn off your water, gas and electricity if there is an earthquake in Spokane.

© 2017 KREM-TV


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