Remembering and learning from the Wells Earthquake

2/20/2009 - By: Natalie Savidge

The Wells Earthquake struck northeastern Nevada on Thursday at 6:16 a.m., February 21, 2008. It was a damaging magnitude 6 earthquake that originated about 5 miles north-northeast of Wells. It was the most damaging earthquake in Nevada since the 1954 Fallon - Dixie Valley Earthquakes and was the most major earthquake recorded by modern instruments, allowing a lot more to be learned than just a location and magnitude.

“Understanding the Wells Earthquake helps us estimate likely shaking at other locations in Nevada, including other towns and Yucca Mountain,” said Craig dePolo, research geologist for the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.

Emergency preparedness, planning, and training were all used in Wells that morning. Wells and surrounding Elko County personnel responded expertly and effectively. The 2008 Wells Earthquake struck a Nevada community hard, but that community and their surrounding neighbors have had a pioneering spirit and wherewithal that can be credited with effectively responding to the emergency and recovering quickly to keep Wells going strong.

“Wells residents have been gracious in allowing the earthquake effects to be scrutinized so lessons can be learned,” dePolo said. “These lessons need to be heeded and applied in Nevada so that damage patterns, injuries, and deaths can be prevented from future earthquakes.”

Lessons learned, as outlined by the Nevada Earthquake Safety Council, include: Major earthquakes can occur anywhere in Nevada; Nevadans should secure, relocate, replace or remove dangerous items that can fall on people and hurt them; If you are inside a building during an earthquake, stay inside; if you are outside, get away from buildings if it is safe to do so; Know, and make sure your family, friends, and employees know, to Drop, Cover, and Hold during an earthquake, and how to turn off the natural gas if they smell a gas leak; Please check on your neighbor’s condition following a strong earthquake and help them if you can.

Volunteers were essential to the success of the response and early recovery efforts at Wells. The Nevada Earthquake Safety Council reminds us to continue to be willing to help their own communities, and neighboring communities, in earthquakes and other disasters.

For more information about the 2008 Wells Earthquake, the analysis and lessons learned from the event, contact the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology at (775) 784-4415, or the Nevada Seismological Laboratory at (775) 784-4975.


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