1928 – Helena, MT – M 5½ ±

Intermountain Seismic Belt Historical Earthquake Project

February 29, 1928 – Helena, MT – M 5½ ±

The 1928 Helena, Montana earthquake had no reported injuries or damage. The shaking startled people throughout the city of Helena and was more noticeable on upper floors of buildings with two or more stories above ground. The shaking was severe enough to disrupt a trial in one city courthouse. Without taking time to formally adjourn the proceedings, the judge and others fled the courtroom as the shaking began.

The earthquake was reported felt in areas southeast of Helena including: Trident, Three Forks, Manhattan, Logan, Lombard, and Sixteen-Mile Canyon. White Sulphur Springs, to the east of Helena, also reported earthquake shaking.

There were reports of shaken buildings, windows rattling, furniture moving, and goods being shaken from shelves.

 

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1947 – Virginia City, MT – M 6¼

Intermountain Seismic Belt Historical Earthquake Project

November 23, 1947 – Virginia City, MT – M 6¼

The Virginia City earthquake was reported felt in several communities in Montana, including: Billings, Missoula, Lewistown, Livingston, Helena, Harlowton, Malta, Havre, Glasgow, Kalispell, and Bozeman; and as far south as Idaho Falls, Idaho.

In most areas, the earthquake rocked buildings with, what was described in Helena as, a “long and easy” motion. There were widespread reports of swaying light fixtures, stopped clocks, dishes rattling, and window blinds and curtains moving back and forth. Cracks in plaster were observed and a plaster ceiling fell in a café in Hamilton.

Near the epicenter, in Virginia City, bricks and plaster were shaken loose from buildings, windowpanes were shattered, walls were cracked, and chimneys damaged. There were also reports of pictures being shaken off walls and dishes falling from cupboards.

In some locations sleeping residents were awakened as the shaking dislodged icicles from rooftops. Strange noises were reportedly heard during the shaking, and some residents fled their homes in fear. However, there were no reports of injuries or significant damage resulting from the earthquake.

 

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1988 – San Rafael Swell, UT – M 5.3

Intermountain Seismic Belt Historical Earthquake Project

August 14, 1988 – San Rafael Swell, UT – M 5.3

This earthquake was located approximately 10 miles ESE of Castle Dale, Utah in Emery County.

There were no reports of injuries or serious damage resulting from the earthquake. Reports indicate that the earthquake was felt as far east as Golden, Colorado, as far south as Albuquerque, New Mexico, as far west as Delta, Utah, and as far north as Brigham City, Utah. The earthquake was reportedly felt particularly in valleys, while less noticed in mountain areas.

Minor damage in Emery County consisted of cracks in foundations, chimneys, and old buildings. Dishes and store goods fell from shelves and pictures were dislodged from wall hooks. Cracks and plaster damage were also observed in ceilings and walls.

Calls about the earthquake were received from several coal mines in the area, but there were no reports of injury or damage. Local dams were examined and found to be sound.

Rock falls were a notable feature of this earthquake. Fallen boulders impeded travel on some roadways. In many locations, falling rocks sent up clouds of dust that were visible for many miles.

Near the epicenter, north of Ferron, Utah a resident reported seeing dust clouds on the western ridge that partially obscured Ferron Mountain and the cliffs around the Wilberg Mine. “You couldn’t see the mountain up around Wilberg for five to 10 minutes because of the dust. Same on the desert [to the east]. Just a big string of dust from as far south to as far north as you could see.”

 

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1934 – Hansel Valley, UT – M 6.6

Intermountain Seismic Belt Historical Earthquake Project

March 12, 1934 – Hansel Valley, UT – M 6.6

Believed to be the most severe earthquake in Utah’s recorded history, the 1934 Hansel Valley earthquake was reportedly felt as far west as Elko, Nevada and as far east as Rawlins, Wyoming. Felt reports were also issued from as far north as Boise, Idaho and as far south as Richfield, Utah.

The main shock occurred approximately 30 miles north of the Great Salt Lake at 8:05 a.m. local time. Five significant aftershocks were recorded over a nearly eight-week period from March 12 to May 6, 1934.

Some of the most severe damage was reported in Logan, Utah and surrounding communities. At least two public buildings in the area had to be abandoned. A three-story brick building on the campus of the Utah State Agricultural College was, reportedly, split from top to bottom. In Preston, Idaho, the shaking dislodged a 150-pound capstone from the top of the local high school building, separating the west wall from the rest of the building.

Other reports of damage included falling chimneys, broken windows, cracked walls and falling plaster. Swinging light fixtures were observed during the earthquake. Furniture rocked back and forth or rolled across floors. Dishes and goods fell from shelves and clocks stopped. Near the epicenter, in Snowville, Utah, the water main was broken and out of service for 10 hours. In some locations schools were evacuated and closed, particularly following the first aftershock.

Near the epicenter of the earthquake the appearance of several fissures or cracks in the ground surface were observed. Witnesses reported hearing loud roars as the fissures ruptured. A geologist who later examined the area reported one of the fissures to be about eight miles in length. He found a maximum fissure width of 14 inches, with a maximum drop of the ground on one side measuring 19 inches. Other reports noted a downward displacement of the ground on the east of the larger, predominantly north-south trending fissures.

Phenomena described as sand or mud cones were observed near the epicenter. There were also sightings of new springs and streams changing course. Artesian wells that had been long dry began flowing with water. Other wells, active prior to the earthquake, ceased to flow for several hours.

In many locations, shaking from the earthquake sent people running out of doors. There were also reports of people fainting from fright. In areas of intense shaking, people were unable to stand during the earthquake.

Two deaths were attributed to the earthquake. Ida Atkinson died instantly from a heart attack upon hearing that the shaking she felt was due to an earthquake. Salt Lake City waterworks employee Charles Bithel was injured when a six-foot trench in which he was working at the time of the earthquake caved in. Bithel died from his injuries the following day in a local hospital.

 

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1959 – Kanab, UT – M 5.7

Intermountain Seismic Belt Historical Earthquake Project

July 21, 1959 – Kanab, UT – M 5.7

This earthquake was felt over an area of 21,000 square kilometers, primarily in southern Utah and northern Arizona, according to newspaper accounts. Dishes and canned goods were knocked to the floor, cars were jostled on roads, and minor rockslides occurred. Felt reports were received from as far south as Flagstaff, Arizona–approximately 195 miles from the epicenter.

Near the epicenter, in the Kanab-Fredonia area, there were also reports of windows and dishes breaking, as well as canned goods tumbling from market shelves. In Kanab, the police chief reported bricks falling from at least one chimney. And plaster in the county courthouse was shaken from the walls. A truck driver traveling through the area at the time of the earthquake related that he “thought his steering had gone haywire.”

The earthquake, which occurred at 10:39 am local time, sent frightened Kanab residents scurrying from their homes–but no injuries or significant damage was reported.

 

For additional information about this earthquake:

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1915 – Provo, UT – M 5.0

Intermountain Seismic Belt Historical Earthquake Project

July 15, 1915 – Provo, UT – M 5.0

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According to newspaper accounts this earthquake was felt throughout the Utah, Salt Lake, and Bear River Valleys, and also in Provo Canyon, Tooele, Parley’s Canyon, and Park City, Utah.  The felt area measured 13,000 square kilometers.

In parts of Utah Valley buildings swayed, chimneys toppled, building walls were cracked, and individuals were knocked from chairs and couches. Wallpaper was split over doors and plaster was cracked and shaken loose. Dishes and pans rattled. In Provo Canyon shaking from the earthquake caused rockslides which blocked at least one road. At Utah Lake an upheaval of water, like a small tidal wave, was sighted.

In the Salt Lake Valley clocks stopped, windows and dishes rattled, and furniture was knocked over. Cans and packages were shaken from grocery store shelves.

Shaking appeared to be more pronounced in the upper floors of taller buildings both in Provo and Salt Lake City. In some locations both in the Utah and Salt Lake Valleys, the shaking caused individuals to rush out of buildings. This was the case throughout Provo where people hurried into the streets wondering what had happened. It was reported that more than an hour passed before the city resumed normal activities.

There were no reports of injuries or significant damage from the earthquake.

 

For additional information about this earthquake:

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1975 – Yellowstone National Park, WY – M 6.1

Intermountain Seismic Belt Historical Earthquake Project

June 30, 1975 – Yellowstone National Park, WY – M 6.1

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This earthquake was located approximately 5 miles ESE of Norris Junction, in Yellowstone National Park. According to newspaper accounts, no casualties resulted from the earthquake and damage was minor. Near the epicenter, telephone service was temporarily knocked out. The earthquake also dislodged boulders that temporarily blocked a road between Norris and Madison Junction – however, campgrounds and park facilities remained open.

A park service employee reported, “There wasn’t any noise; no dishes rattled. There was just a gentle rolling of the floor.”

The earthquake shook buildings and rattled windows 200 miles away from the epicenter, and was reported felt both in Great Falls and Billings, Montana. The total felt area of the earthquake was 50,000 square kilometers.

A significant aftershock (magnitude 5.5) occurred just over 17 months later on December 8, 1976, approximately 5 miles W of Norris Junction. This earthquake was the largest since the June 30, 1975 main shock, and was felt over an area of 5,000 square kilometers.

Park officials noted that the aftershock shook buildings, but no damage was reported. One park official believed that damage to the terrain would likely be limited to rockslides. The earthquake occurred after the close of the summer tourist season – the park service received no inquiries about the earthquake from individuals inside park boundaries.

 

For additional information about this earthquake:

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ISB Hist EQ Proj

 

UUSS Welcomes Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dr. Hao Zhang

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Dr. Hao Zhang recently joined the University of Utah Seismograph Stations (UUSS) as a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Earthquake Seismology. He comes to Utah from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Northwestern University where he was a postdoctoral researcher.

Dr. Zhang received both his B.S. and Ph.D. in Geophysics from Peking University. His doctoral dissertation was titled, “Imaging the Rupture Processes of Earthquakes Using the Relative Backprojection Method”.

Some of his research accomplishments include:

  • Rapidly resolving rupture processes of the 2015 Mw 7.8 Nepal earthquake and its Mw 7.3 aftershock using a multi-array back-projection method.
  • Relocating a scattering source in the Lake Superior region.
  • Detecting microseismic events and performing cluster analyses in the south Chicago suburban region.
  • Studying the crustal structure in the Middle Continent Rift System using P-wave receiver functions.
  • Investigating the topography of the 410 km discontinuity in the Java subduction zone using 3-D pre-stacked Kirchhoff migration.

Dr. Zhang will work with UUSS faculty, staff, and students on problems of earthquake detection, location, and characterization in the Intermountain West.

Kristine Pankow (Associate Director, UUSS) says, “We are excited to have Hao join our research team here at UUSS. He brings valuable skills that will help us move our research forward.”

Post-doc in Earthquake Seismology at the University of Utah

The University of Utah Seismograph Stations (UUSS, quake.utah.edu) invites applications for a one-year appointment as Postdoctoral Research Associate in Earthquake Seismology. The successful applicant will work with UUSS faculty, staff, and students on problems of earthquake detection, location, and characterization in the Intermountain West. Potential research topics include (1) application of template detection methods to seismicity induced from geothermal and mining operations, as well as to naturally occurring seismic swarms and aftershock sequences, (2) high-resolution, multi-event relocation using methods such as Bayesloc and HypoDD, (3) estimation of full moment tensors for small-to-moderate seismic events using waveform inversion and first motion polarities, (4) discrimination of tectonic earthquakes from induced earthquakes and non-earthquake sources. While primary datasets are available from regional seismic networks, in some cases supplemental data will be generated using the University of Utah pool of 95 three-component, short-period (5 Hz) Nodal seismometers. The successful applicant will be expected to participate in the Nodal seismometer field campaigns. In addition to research, the successful applicant will be expected to serve rotations as a UUSS duty seismologist (leading the initial UUSS response to events of interest), which will periodically require 24/7 availability via cell/pager. A Ph.D. in geophysics or a related field is required at the time of appointment. The position is renewable for a second year, pending acceptable progress and availability of funding. Opportunities for teaching, mentoring, and outreach will be made available for those interested in pursuing an academic track. To apply submit a cover letter, a curriculum vitae, a statement of research interests, and contact information for three references to the following webpage: https://utah.peopleadmin.com/postings/52629. The nominal start date is July 1, 2016, however there is flexibility in the actual start date. Review of applications will begin immediately. Questions may be directed to UUSS Director Keith Koper (koper@seis.utah.edu) or UUSS Associate Director Kris Pankow (pankow@seis.utah.edu).

Celebration Recognizes UUSS 50th Anniversary and Founding Director

The University of Utah Seismograph Stations (UUSS) commemorated 50 years of earthquake monitoring, research, education and outreach with a celebration held April 8, 2016 in the Frederick Albert Sutton Building on the University of Utah campus. The celebration was also an occasion to recognize the efforts and contributions of UUSS founding director, Dr. Kenneth L. Cook.

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Sign points arriving guests to the Frederick Albert Sutton Building.

Special guests attending the celebration included family and friends of Dr. Cook, including his daughters, Carla Rae Cook and Shauna Cook Clinger. Also in attendance were representatives from both Rio Tinto Kennecott and the Utah Division of Emergency Management; faculty, staff, and students from the College of Mines and Earth Sciences – including Dean Francis H. Brown; and former UUSS staff members.

A permanent historical display, describing the role Dr. Cook played in the founding and development of UUSS, has been installed outside the Rio Tinto earthquake information center in the foyer on the first floor of the Sutton Building.

In conjunction with the celebration, members of the UUSS staff conducted tours of the earthquake information center.

The celebration also included a program held in the Rev. Marta Sutton Weeks Lecture Hall. UUSS Director, Dr. Keith D. Koper welcomed attendees and shared opening remarks. Dr. William P. Johnson, Incoming Chair gave remarks on behalf of the Department of Geology and Geophysics.

Dr. Walter J. Arabasz, former UUSS Director, presented “Historical Perspective on the University of Utah Seismograph Stations,” with particular emphasis on the organization’s development during the tenure of its first director, Dr. Kenneth L. Cook.

Shauna Cook Clinger presented a life sketch of her father, Dr. Kenneth L. Cook, illustrated with photos from his early years. Carla Rae Cook shared several childhood remembrances of her father.

In closing, Dr. Keith Koper spoke about UUSS today and into the future. He noted the potential involvement of UUSS in the development of an earthquake early warning system for the State of Utah.

Following the program, guests enjoyed dinner and visiting in the Sutton Building confluence.

 

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Historical display honoring Dr. Kenneth L. Cook and the founding and early years of UUSS.

 

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Martha Knowlton (left) and Dr. Jim Pechmann (center) both of UUSS discuss the display with Dr. Paul Jewell of the Department of Geology and Geophysics.

 

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UUSS Seismic Network Manager, Valeriu Burlacu, gives a tour of the Rio Tinto Earthquake Information Center.

 

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UUSS Associate Director, Dr. Kristine Pankow presents an overview of Utah seismicity to tour participants.

 

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Attendees gather in the lecture hall prior to the program.

 

UUSS Director, Dr. Keith Koper, gives opening remarks

Dr. Keith Koper, welcomes attendees.

 

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Dr. William Johnson, offers remarks on behalf of the Department of Geology and Geophysics.

 

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Program attendees (front row, right to left): Dr. Keith Koper (UUSS), Dr. Walter Arabasz (UUSS), Cordell Clinger, Shauna Cook Clinger, Carla Rae Cook, Piper Rhodes (Rio Tinto Kennecott), Nigel Steward (Rio Tinto Kennecott), Dr. Kim McCarter (Department of Mining Engineering)

 

Former UUSS Director, Dr. Walter Arabasz, gives an overview of the early history of UUSS.

Dr. Walter Arabasz, gives an overview of the early history of UUSS.

 

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Carla Rae Cook shares remembrances of her father, UUSS founding director, Dr. Kenneth L. Cook.

 

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Dr. William Johnson (left) with department colleagues, Dr. Tony Ekdale and Kim Atwater; and Dr. Francis H. Brown (right), Dean of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences.

 

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Buffet line in the Sutton Building confluence.

 

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Dr. Walter Arabasz (standing) stops to chat with (l to r) John Crofts, Judy Watanabe, and Bill Carey of the Utah Division of Emergency Management; and former UUSS staff member Paula Oehmich.

 

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Dr. Jim Pechmann (left) visits with former UUSS staff members (l to r) Erwin McPherson and Bill Richins and spouse.

 

Video recording of program speakers – program outline below.

50th Program Outline