Several small quakes hit Kings Beach area |

Several small quakes hit Kings Beach area

An area 6 miles north of Kings Beach shaken six weeks ago by six small quakes was hit by 15 more early Saturday.

The largest of Saturday’s events, a six-mile-deep magnitude 3.7 temblor that struck just before 12:24 a.m., was felt as far away as Gardnerville, said University of Nevada, Reno, seismologist Ken Smith.

The quake was followed within an hour by at least 14 smaller events, including two of magnitude 2.6 and 2.7, he said.

The few inquiries received by Washoe and Placer county sheriffs in response to the early morning shaking reported no damage or emergencies.

The same locale was struck by six small quakes May 27, starting with a magnitude 2.4 event.

Smith said both quake sequences could be considered aftershocks of the magnitude 4.9 event that took place there on Oct. 30, 1998.

“The area could still be adjusting to the bigger 1998 quake,” he said.

He added that UNR monitoring reveals “lots of small earthquakes” in the vicinity of Saturday’s events, and that this diffuse activity could be part of a northeast-trending regional deformation that extends through the southern Truckee Meadows.

This area, and the Reno-Carson City urban corridor in general, is recognized as one of significant seismic hazard, in part because more than 10 quakes of magnitude 6 or larger have occurred there within the last 150 years.

Events of magnitude 6 and greater are considered major, and can cause significant destruction within 30 miles or more of the quake center.

To better characterize this hazard, UNR’s Seismological Laboratory has been tasked with installing and operating 200 systems of the new Advanced National Seismic System in urbanized areas of western Nevada, and 100 systems in the Las Vegas area.

ANSS stations use sophisticated instruments to digitally record earthquakes, faithfully recording both the very small and the very large without distortion, unlike 95 percent of the systems currently in operation.

The ANSS was launched two years ago with federal funding following the recognition that better data were needed to anticipate seismic, volcano and tsunami hazards throughout the country, according to Lab director John Anderson. In its first year of operation, 40 stations were installed in the San Francisco area, and 20 each were installed in the Seattle and Salt Lake City. Efforts this year began in Anchorage, Memphis and Nevada.

Anderson said the Lab received 12 of the systems earlier this year, and that six would be sited in the Reno and Sparks area, two in Carson City, and four in Las Vegas.

Three months ago, the Lab sent out an Internet call for volunteers to host the ANSS systems, and Anderson said the response was overwhelming.

“Although we can find sites for the instruments on public land, sometimes a private residence offers the best geological conditions,” he said. “But we have more offers for hosts than we can possibly use, so we’re no longer seeking help this year.”

A novel application of the ANSS that will be explored is to provide real-time warnings of earthquakes as they happen. Because the most damaging waves from earthquakes travel at speeds between 2 and 4 miles per second, communities distant from the epicenter but still within a radius of damage could have up to 20 seconds warning to seek shelter or stop delicate procedures, for example.

But a more immediate application would be a near-real-time shake map that indicates the intensity of shaking throughout a region.

Authorized annual funding levels for ANSS are $33.5 million, but Congress granted only $3.6 million last year. Sharyn Stein, a spokesperson for Sen. Harry Reid’s office, said the Senate markup of the current Department of Interior budget provided the same amount for the coming fiscal year. The project is administered by the U.S. Geological Survey, which is part of the DOI.

Anyone wishing to help map the extent that Saturday’s quakes were felt can fill out an Internet form at at for “New Earthquake.” A summary of the results will be found at the same site later.

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