Coaldale quake strongest in Nevada since 1954
The strongest earthquake to strike Nevada in 65 years rattled the central part of the state Friday morning and closed the main Reno-to-Las Vegas highway for more than nine hours.
The magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck 37 miles west of Tonopah at 4:03 a.m. followed by a series of aftershocks felt throughout the region. The epicenter is near Coaldale with a depth recorded at 1.7 miles. As of Monday morning, more than 800 aftershocks have occurred according to both the U.S. Geological Survey and the Nevada Seismological Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno. At least four aftershocks on Sunday were a magnitude 4.0 or stronger, and one was a magnitude 5.0 recorded at 2:47 p.m. southeast of Mina.
In 1954, Churchill County experienced five major earthquakes within an eight-month period. The largest quake, though occurred on Aug. 23, 1954, when it rattled Stillwater with a magnitude 6.8 that caused an additional 33 miles of surface rupture. The three earthquakes caused considerable damage in Fallon to numerous commercial buildings and houses.
Another double earthquake occurred on Dec. 16 in the Dixie Valley-Fairview Peak area. At 3:07 a.m. a magnitude 7.1 tremor occurred near Fairview Peak and less than 5 minutes later, a magnitude 6.9 shake struck Dixie Valley. The strongest quake between 1954 and Friday came on Feb. 21, 2008, when a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck Wells, causing to damage to about 700 structures.
Linda Oxborrow of Fallon remembers the 1954 quakes as a 9-year-old.
“It was much stronger, and it was more direct shaking as it moved our house off its foundation,” she said on the LVN Facebook page. “This quake felt more rolling and only had less sound than the ’54 quake. That one sounded like a train roll on the tracks. This was muted.”
According to the Nevada Seismological Lab, Friday’s quake occurred in the Walker Lane of Nevada, a geologic feature associated with the eastern California shear zone that roughly parallels the California-Nevada border. The Walker Lane is a 60-mile-wide zone of active faults that straddles the Nevada and California border and starts in the Mojave Desert in Southern California and extends to the east of the Sierra Nevada, north through western Nevada in the Reno area, and then into northeast California.
People from as far east as Salt Lake City to near the Mexico border reported a strong rolling earthquake that woke thousands of people up from their sleep. Residents in western Nevada flooded law enforcement with calls after the first quake hit or turned to social media. Several people in Virginia City reported they felt the major earthquake and two aftershocks.
Kathleen Leonard Rodegeb of Fallon said on the LVN Facebook page she felt several rolling sensations with Friday’s earthquake.
“Then a strong force from the west tried to move my house to the east. It tried three strong pushes spaced seconds apart. It made me head for the doorframe and look for the quickest exit. Then I packed a bag in case I need to head for the hills, so to speak. A little later, more rolling motions.”
Other residents from Battle Mountain to Minden said they felt a strong jolt.
Denielle Hartzell of Fallon commented on the LVN Facebook page.
“Bed took a long time to stop rolling. Woke us up out of a dead sleep. Lived in California since over 20 years and hubby and I both said we never felt one like that.”
Erin Griffin of Fallon said “it was nothing.”
“I thought at first it was my son moving and woke to make him stop when I realized it wasn’t him,” she wrote. “Just rode out the ride in bed until it stopped waiting for the moment when I would have to jump up & get my kids out,” she said.
The Mineral County Sheriff’s Office reported minimal damage in Luning and Mina, both small towns south of Hawthorne on U.S. Highway 95. The Nye County Sheriff’s Office also reported minimal damage in Tonopah and no damage to the historic Mizpah Hotel.
The Esmeralda County Sheriff’s Office said Nevada Department of Transportation crews were able to fix the damaged highway, which had cracks running across the surface on a half-mile section of U.S. 95 north of the U.S. Route 6 junction in Tonopah. NDOT said most of the cracked areas have a minor lift that, as a temporary fix, will be shaved to minimize roadway surface bumps until a full repair can be scheduled.
Northern Nevada and the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada have been active with a number of earthquakes and aftershocks since March when a 4.5 magnitude tremor shook the Prison Hill area southeast of Carson City, and dozens of aftershocks continued for several days.
The strongest aftershock registered a magnitude 3.0.
A cluster of earthquakes rocked the Mono Lake area about 50-55 miles southwest of Hawthorne. The strongest quake, a magnitude 5.2, occurred during the early morning hours on April 11 and was a magnitude 5.2. A number of aftershocks occurred near Bodie, a former mining camp in the 1880s and now a popular tourist destination. Residents in Hawthorne and the U.S. 395 corridor have reported feeling the earthquake activity.
Staff at the Bodie State Historic Park reported no damage from the Coaldale earthquake and aftershocks: “Though the shaking was prolonged, the intensity was not severe. It seemed unlikely that there was any damage, but staff still made the rounds to check on our precious buildings,” they wrote on their Facebook page.
Bodie, though, has seen its share of damage caused by earthquakes. A cluster of earthquakes in late 2016 caused damage to the ghost town. During the first 90-minutes of seismic activity on Dec. 28, the USGS reported a pair of magnitude 5.7 temblors and another at magnitude 5.5. USGS maps and the Nevada Seismological Lab placed much of the activity about 14 miles due east of Bodie.
Two major earthquakes with magnitudes of 6.4 and 7.1 and series of aftershocks near Ridgecrest, Calif., over the 2019 Fourth of July weekend not only disrupted everyday life for the town and surrounding area but also ceased most operations at the massive Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake 325 miles southwest of Fallon.
The Nevada Seismological Laboratory operates a network of about 150 real-time seismograph stations throughout the region providing earthquake information to Nevada citizens, the USGS, and local and state officials.