A map provided by the U.S. Weather Service shows the epicenter of the earthquake that struck the interior West on Tuesday, March 31.
An earthquake that could be felt throughout the western interior of the United States hit just before 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The U.S. Geological Survey said preliminary information indicated the earthquake measured 6.5 on the moment magnitude scale, which measures the size of the quake in terms of how much energy is released. The quake was centered 45 miles west of Challis, Idaho, and was about six miles deep, according to preliminary information from Geological Survey.
The agency reported a second quake measuring 4.6 hit at about 6:30 p.m. in the same area and two more soon followed.
“This earthquake occurred within the Intermountain seismic belt, a prominent zone of recorded seismicity in the Intermountain West,” the agency said in a website report Tuesday evening. The quake likely was “the result of complex strike slip faulting within the shallow crust of the North America plate,” according to the Geological Survey.
Jana Pursley, a geologist with the United States Geological Survey, confirmed in an interview that the quake originated 75 miles northeast of Boise in the mountains.
“It was a shallow event. At this point that is all we know about it,” said Pursley.
Pursley said while faults in California are more tectonically active, fault lines exist throughout the continental United States but “they don’t move as much.”
“California faults are moving at a fairly steady rate,” said Pursley.
Outside of California, said Pursley, in places such as Idaho earthquakes are not as common “so when they do happen they tend to surprise us because we don’t expect them.”
The quake hit about 150 miles northeast of Ontario.
Around Malheur County, people reported shifting furniture, swinging light fixtures and shaken houses. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage in the local area.
Ontario City Manager Adam Brown said city crews checked its computer system and inspected its water plant for damage but found none. Brown did ask that if residents find any pools of water in their house to let the city know in case the quake damaged pipes.
Travis Johnson, Malheur County undersheriff, said he had not received any reports of damage or injuries.
Claudia Weathermon Tester, marketing and communications director for Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario, said the hospital suffered no damage from the quake. The hospital is one of the tallest buildings in Malheur County.
The quake certainly grabbed the attention of area people, however.
“Shook furniture fixtures in Ontario,” messaged Claude Schultz.
In Vale, Elynn Mizuta reported, “Lights and mirrors were shaking. Door was rattling. Same thing for friends in Ontario.”
“Our dogs had been bugging us for several minutes and we couldn’t figure out what they wanted,” messaged Tammie Dockter. “After awhile I could hear the water cooler jug rattling and looked over and could see the floor rippling. My hubby and I decided we would go out into the backyard. Last 15-20 seconds.”
Maria Heredia reported, “Every object in my house moved. I feel like God is trying to send a message.”
Linda Taylor reported, “No damage but house moved and coffee cups and wine glasses hanging on wall clanged.”
In Kuna, Idaho, “Our cat jumped about three feet in the air and our cuckoo clock weights were banging against the wall. No damage thankfully,” wrote Nancy DeLong.
Others reported on social media posts that they felt it in Spokane, Washington, Butte, Montana; and Salt Lake City, Utah.
In 1983, the Borah Peak Earthquake struck the Challis area on Friday, Oct. 28. It measured 6.9 on the Moment Magnitude Scale. It is the largest earthquake recorded in Idaho in terms of magnitude and property damage. Two people were killed.
The Geological Survey said more earthquakes could be expected.
“According to our forecast, over the next one week there is a 4% chance of one or more aftershocks that are larger than magnitude 6.5. It is likely that there will be smaller earthquakes over the next one week,” the agency said in a forecast on its website.
An interactive map maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the reports from individuals who felt an earthquake on Tuesday, March 31.
DID YOU FEEL IT? Share your experience and any information about damage. Share your photos as well as warranted. Post here or email: [email protected].