LVN Editorial: Earthquakes: It’s not if ... it’s a matter of when

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Two weeks ago, a swarm of earthquakes, three of them of magnitude 5.0 or greater, shook central Nevada and northeast of Bridgeport, Calif., shortly after midnight, rattling thousands of people’s nerves and causing some minor damage in Hawthorne and communities along the eastern Sierra.

Fallon and Fernley residents expressed concern after the first two large jolts rocked the area.

Since Dec. 28, hundreds of aftershocks, some registering magnitude 3.0, have occurred are occurring almost daily.

Bodie, Calif., has weathered floods, blizzards and previous earthquakes, but the Dec. 28 swarm of quakes and hundreds of aftershocks caused significant damage to the iconic ghost town, one of the West’s most prominent mining camps in the late 1800s.

Several major buildings in Bodie, which is referred to as an old 1800s mining town being in arrested decay, suffered major damage including a hotel, a general store and houses.

To the east of Bodie, a Mineral County ranch house where famous Comstock writer Mark Twain spent nine days caring for a sick man instead of proving up a mining claim was also damaged.

Catastrophes such as this earthquake, however, should serve as a reminder to those of us who live in the West that we could also be affected by an earthquake that had the same or even a more intense magnitude.

It’s been almost nine years when a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck Wells, a small ranching/truck stop community in northeastern Nevada. The quake was followed by a series of aftershocks that collapsed many buildings in the historic section of Wells and caused significant structural damage to many other buildings including the high school’s gymnasium. Since then, the old downtown section facing the railroad tracks has been razed.

From February to April 2008, a series of small earthquakes rumbled near Mogul, just west of Reno, the strongest being a magnitude earthquake 4.7 that destroyed a portion of the Highland Ditch, a source for some of Reno’s water.

Alaska, California and Nevada are the three most active states for earthquakes.

What the Dec. 28 swarm of earthquakes showed us is that people are still not prepared for the big one, which could occur anytime in western Nevada. Two of the most powerful Nevada earthquakes in modern times occurred in 1954 east of Fallon in the Dixie Valley-Fairview area. They were recorded at magnitude 6.8 and 7.1, respectivey.

We are still amazed how many Nevadans are not prepared despite the numerous warnings and wealth of information. Refer to the latest incident near Bodie to review your own earthquake emergency plans. A wealth of information can be found at

Most scientists tell us it’s not a matter of if the big quake will strike the West again — it’s a matter of when.

LVN Editorials represent the viewpoint of this newspaper and appear on Wednesday.


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