Thursday, August 5, 2010

Another Wyoming Reality Check: Earthquakes Happen Here

I WAS TALKING ON MY CELL PHONE late yesterday afternoon about 6 pm when suddenly I began to feel a wild shaking and hear a loud rumbling where I was standing.

Stop! I said to the person on the other end who was in her car, I think my washing machine is having a nervous breakdown---it sounds like it's going airborne in the laundry room! I gotta go stop it!

But wait! I thought, my washer and dryer aren't even on...

The noise and shaking continued for 20-30 seconds. Then it stopped dead. I finished my conversation fast, hung up and started looking around for the source of the commotion, thinking I was dehydrated and starting to hallucinate.

Then a neighbor, ran down to my door: Did you feel that? Did you hear that? It was an earthquake!

Of course! I replied,---it's an earthquake!

Talk of the quake spread quickly and first reports had the epicenter in Ogden, Utah. By this morning, however, the center was said to be located here in Jackson Hole, less than thirty miles away. A nice little 4.8 magnitude. By all accounts it was fairly well-behaved, only shaking up chandeliers and rattling dishes and nerves.

Today just before 9 am, I sent an email to a relative on the latest quake news from Jackson Hole, then went to back to put on my shorts when the noise and shaking started all over again! This time I knew what was happening, so I grabbed the rest of my clothes and ran outside on the deck to finish dressing. It lasted about as long as the first one fifteen hours earlier. With a similar intensity.

Was this an aftershock, or was a bigger one coming? I wondered.

Of course, there's no way to know, but the reality of it is that fault lines run all up and down the Jackson Hole geological formation---and Yellowstone---and earthquakes have and will continue to happen here. Will there be A BIG ONE one day? If so, the real danger for Jackson and little hamlets like Moose, Moran and Wilson in the Valley is if IT should cause Jackson Lake Dam to fail, releasing millions of gallons of water from the lake behind the dam down into The Hole through the Snake River watershed.

We never thought a flood the size of the May 1 flood in Nashville could ever happen....until, that is, it happened. Few people think it will ever really happen here in Jackson. But if it does, Katy. Bar. The. Door. It would no doubt cause a number of fatalities, though with adequate warning of the tidal wave/tsunami rolling down the Snake River valley, many people would have time to evacuate to higher ground. But quite a lot of very, very expensive real estate would be washed away in a matter of hours. It may never happen. But it could.

The longer I live, the more I've learned to never say NEVER!...never.


mRed said...

I used to get strange a look from my mother when I would ask, "So, I should never say never?" I thought I was clever. Might be why my mother said she had to drag me up.

Webutante said...

We all thought we were ever so clever....once.....

Paul_In_Houston said...

I suspect that earthquakes needn't be very high on my fret list here in Houston.

The entire city, and much of the surrounding area, sits on a shelf of Beaumont clay, resulting in many structures not lasting more than 30-40 years or so before being torn down and replaced (because of all the cracks from settling).

I understand that all those skyscrapers in the title picture on my blog are only possible because they dig way down and pour a reinforced concrete raft, at least as massive as the building itself, and use it to literally float the building.

Not quite like Manhattan, where you have granite bedrock. On the other hand, I doubt that clay will transmit seismic waves as efficiently as that granite but would more likely damp them out.

(Of course, I could be wrong and we've just been lucky all this time. :-)

Bob said...

Whew! I hope that is the last one you will experience!

Webutante said...

Thank you Paul and far, so good today.