The focus this past week was not so much on the weather, but the recent earthquake activity. Last Saturday, a massive 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal, a mountainous nation between India and Tibet that’s known for its hiking, wildlife and temples. The big quake killed more than 4,500 people and also triggered an avalanche on the slopes of Mount Everest. There have been numerous aftershocks, including a strong 6.7 on Sunday.
In our region, many residents, including myself, felt at least one earthquake that originated about 36 to 42 miles from Sandpoint last Thursday. According to the USGS, there were four earthquakes with the largest measuring 3.9 magnitude at 10:43 last Thursday night. The others ranged from 2.7 to 3.7.
Since the late 1970s, earthquakes have been measured by the Moment Magnitude Scale, which replaced the Richter Scale. The MMS is used by seismologists to more accurately measure the size of earthquakes, especially the larger ones.
Of course, most of the large earthquakes occur along major fault boundaries. California has the most famous one with the San Andreas Fault. Small earthquakes occur on a daily basis in the Golden State, but many are too small to be felt.
But, there have been large earthquakes in Washington and Idaho. On Oct. 28, 1983, there was a 6.9 magnitude quake in the Lost River Range at Borah Peak in central Idaho. Total damage was about $12.5 million. One of the largest earthquakes in recent times in Washington happened near Lake Chelan on Dec. 14, 1872. It measured 6.8 and was felt from British Columbia to Montana. On Feb. 28, 2001, the Nisqually earthquake was also recorded at 6.8 and was centered on Anderson Island, about 11 miles northeast of Olympia. There was some property damage in Seattle and surrounding areas.
An even bigger earthquake hit the Pacific Northwest coastline on Jan. 26, 1700. The magnitude was estimated between 8.7 and 9.2 and triggered a tsunami that hit the coast of Japan. Based on historical evidence, the next one is not expected for at least another 100 years.
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