TONOPAH, Nevada (CBS SF/CNN) — Dozens of aftershocks ranging in magnitude of 4.6 to 2.5 continued to rattle an area near the California-Nevada border Saturday following the state’s largest earthquake since 1954.
A magnitude 6.5 earthquake, with an epicenter in a remote area 36 miles west of Tonopah, shook local residents awake at 4:03 a.m. PDT on Friday.
Since the area is so remote, damage was very limited but the rocking motion was enough to create a large crack on U.S. 95 — the main highway between Las Vegas and Reno — shutting down the freeway. No injuries were reported.
According to the Nevada Seismology Lab at the University of Nevada-Reno, 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.
“This is the largest earthquake in Nevada since the 1954 Fairview Peak (magnitude 7.1) and Dixie Valley (magnitude 6.8) earthquakes – basically ending a streak of 66 years for quakes in the mid-M6 range,” Graham Kent, director of the Nevada Seismological Lab said.
Six aftershocks larger than magnitude 4.5 occurred in the hour following the May 15 mainshock, the largest being a magnitude 5.1 approximately 23 minutes after the main temblor. Seismologists said initial aftershock forecasts estimate that there is a 4% chance of an aftershock larger than magnitude 6.5 in the week following this event.
USGS Research Geologist Dr. Kate Scharer put that risk of a larger quake nearer to 10 percent over the next week. She said Friday’s quake struck on a east-west cross fault much like last year’s Ridgecrest temblor.
At Ridgecrest, a magnitude 6.4 was followed by a 7.1 and series of aftershocks over the Fourth of July. The quakes and aftershocks 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.
Nevada Seismological Lab researchers said the region of Friday’s quake is an active seismic area. The earthquake was the largest in the region since a 1934 magnitude 6.5 earthquake approximately 24 miles to the northwest and a 1932 magnitude 6.8 earthquake approximately 30 miles to the north, and experienced a magnitude 5.1 earthquake in 2013.
According to the USGS, shaking from the largest Tonopah quake was felt as far away as Oakland, San Jose and other East and South Bay communities.
Several people in Fresno reported swaying lights and being awakened by the jolt.
Check this out, my chandelier was swinging so hard that it was hitting the pipes in my loft in the Pacific Southwest building. This was filmed moments after the earthquake hit! https://t.co/HgOKm0WxK3 pic.twitter.com/ygv7vFeyAo
— LanceCardoza (@CardozaLance) May 15, 2020
Across the region, residents took to Twitter to respond to the quake.
— René 📍West Coast, USA (@IAmReneWhyte) May 15, 2020
This was 6 minutes AFTER the quake as felt in Sparks. (Cheers is on in the background). pic.twitter.com/3tQj3FWt5a
— Tammie Hefty (@tammiehefty) May 15, 2020
The whole town woke up to an earthquake last night. So far this is the worst damage we are aware of. Highway north of us where it happened. Expect delays.
📷 Esmeralda County Sheriff’s Office pic.twitter.com/x4WynWpMfX
— Tonopah Nevada (@TonopahNevada) May 15, 2020
The earthquake was “widely felt,” USGS spokesman Paul Laustsen told CNN.
“There have been almost 8,000 ‘Did you feel it’ reports, with people logging into USGS to report it,” Laustsen said.
Esmeralda County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Stritenberger felt the main earthquake and it was the biggest one he’s ever experienced, he said.
“North- and southbound is undriveable around mile marker 89,” Stritenberger said. “According to people who called it in, it’s buckled really bad.”
Keith Hasty was working at the Super 7 gas station on Main Street in Tonopah told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the quake rattled his store.
“It really shook a lot of groceries off the shelves,” Hasty said.
He said he hadn’t heard of any damage but the temblor did startle the local residents.
“We have a lot of locals coming in saying their TVs were shaking, they felt it,” Hasty told the paper. “No damage that I’ve heard of. My boss just called and said his garage shook.”
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