Earthquakes rattle nerves: No injuries or damage, but many questions after series of quakes | SierraSun.com
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Earthquakes rattle nerves: No injuries or damage, but many questions after series of quakes

ABHUTCHISON and NIK DIRGA, Sierra Sun

Saturday morning is a time to relax and sleep in for many, but this past weekend residents were rudely jolted awake by a series of small earthquakes that shook the Truckee area.

A series of small earthquakes rattled the Sierra Nevada early Saturday and were felt as far away as Sacramento.

No injuries were reported.

The first quake hit at 7:34 a.m. and measured magnitude 4.8, according to the United States Geological Survey Web site, but according to the Nevada Seismological Laboratory in Reno, the earthquake measured magnitude 4.9.

The epicenter was located about 16 miles west of Truckee, about four miles north of the Kingvale exit on Interstate 80, close to Lake Fordyce.

A second quake occurred three minutes later and measured 3.0. Three minutes later, yet another quake hit – this one a bit smaller, measuring 2.0.

The shaking appeared to taper off with another small quake measuring magnitude 1.6, but then a strong jolt hit at 8:30 a.m. with a magnitude of 3.2.

A spokesman for the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office dispatch said they received many alarmed phone calls Saturday morning, but no injuries or damage was reported.

“There was basically no damage as far as we can tell,” the spokesman said.

The NCSO added that the Tahoe Donner area reported the most shaking in Truckee, and that emergency officials were kept busy Saturday morning answering false alarms set off by the quakes.

“We don’t think it even broke any coffee cups,” the spokesman said.

Paula Wickstrom, an office worker at Boreal Mountain Resort in Truckee, said she felt the first quake at her home.

“It was just a big jolt. Everything started shaking. My china cabinet doors popped open,” Wickstrom said.

Lee Tarnay, a Tahoe Donner resident, was awake and stretching when he felt the quake.

“It was one sharp jerk and it knocked me off balance,” he said. “At first I thought a jet or an airplane had crashed or something, so I looked out the window to see if something had crashed.”

Geological experts say the earthquakes occurred on a previously unknown fault.

Tom Sawyer, principal engineering geologist with Piedmont Geosciences in Reno, said no faults in the area of the epicenter are recognized to have moved in the last 10,000 years.

“It’s a remote region, so there hasn’t been a lot of research done by federal or state agencies,” Sawyer said.

The earthquake occurred in an area that was formerly a glacial region, and Sawyer said glaciers can erase geomorphic evidence of faulting.

“There are no known active faults in that region,” he said. “The nearest faults that have been considered to be active are to the east of where this earthquake occurred.”

The Nevada Seismological Laboratory reported the mechanism for this earthquake indicates that it was a case of strike-slip faulting, which occurs when material resting on a fault line moves horizontally.

One of the largest nearby earthquakes occurred on Nov. 28, 1980, about five miles southeast of Saturday’s quake, with a magnitude of 5.2. Another quake with a magnitude of 5.3 occurred on March 30, 1943 4 miles northwest of Saturday’s epicenter.

“We have received numerous felt reports,” the seismology lab reported in a press release issued Dec. 2. “The earthquake was felt weakly throughout the Reno-Sparks metropolitan area, and sporadically in other western Nevada locations. To the west of the earthquake, the event was felt weakly in Sacramento.”


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