Nevada ranks third among the most seismically active U.S. states, after California and Alaska. This is something Reno / Tahoe residents didn't seem to think about much until recently, when a series of small quakes started rattling our dishes and nerves.
What Is Happening
A series of magnitude 1 - 2 and higher earthquakes began on February 28, 2008, preceded on February 21 by a much more severe magnitude 6 earthquake near Wells, NV
(though there is no reported link between the two). The Reno-area quakes are centered to the northwest of downtown, in areas known locally as Mogul, Somersett, and Verdi. On Thursday, April 24, a 4.2 struck at 3:55 p.m. It was felt by residents throughout the Truckee Meadows, including me. There were reports of downtown Reno buildings swaying, but only minor damage was reported. Whether or not this will continue, no one knows.
Why Earthquakes Happen in Reno / Tahoe
Our area of the eastern Sierra is riddled with earthquake faults. If you look at the USGS fault map for Nevada
, then use the map controls to click around the area, you will see numerous fractures within striking distance of Reno / Tahoe. Active geology is also in evidence all around Nevada by the large number of hot springs and other geothermal features we have. In brief, this is why we experience earthquakes. The Earth is literally moving beneath our feet.
Is the Big One Coming?
That's a question everyone asks and one with no clear answer. Small earthquakes are literally a constant feature of the region and geological science has yet to come up with a sure-fire way to predict any earthquakes, much less major events. However, according to an April 24, 2008 press release from the Nevada Seismological Laboratory
, the probability of larger earthquakes increases somewhat following a series of smaller shakers such as those we have recently had. Our best defense is to be prepared and learn more about what is happening in our own neighborhood.
Be Ready and Know What To Do if a Big Earthquake Strikes
The Nevada Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno provides earthquake safety information and news about local earthquake activity.
Get more Nevada earthquake information from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).