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Challis reacts to earthquake swarm

Challis reacts to earthquake swarm

CHALLIS, Idaho - In the past couple of weeks, Custer County has been rocked by a number of earthquakes. Since March 25, the area has experienced 21 earthquakes with a magnitude 2.0 or greater.

Saturday's 4.9 quake didn't cause major damage, but residents reported broken dishes, fallen pictures, and open drawers. After experiencing three large ones and a number of aftershocks in the past week, many reported just how loud the earthquakes can be as they begin.

Bureau of Land Management geologist Antonia Hendrick gave a simple science lesson, saying the land is moving about a tenth of a foot to the southwest each year.

"If you think of the hotspot (near Yellowstone) as a light bulb and the crust as a blanket migrating over the light bulb you get all these folds. ... So there are stair-stepping mountain ranges moving to the southwest," said Hendrick.

That's when the rattling begins.

"The earthquakes are happening at 5 km, which is 3.1 miles. That's 15,000 feet of rock that need to move a tenth of a foot a year," said Hendrick.

Challis sits close to the Lost River Fault, the site of Idaho's biggest earthquake, a 6.9 in 1983.

"That didn't seem to shake as bad as the ones we have been having because I am closer," said Carol Maxwell, a Challis resident who lives near the epicenter of the recent quakes.

If another major earthquake hits, the Fire Department has a plan.

"If the big one was to emerge, they are going to break up into teams of two and go house to house and make sure everyone is okay and no one is pinned under anything," said Carl Alexander, Custer County Disaster Services coordinator.

The thought of a big one is causing another trend, too.

"We have people that are actually calling us that are wanting earthquake coverage all of the sudden," said Tamra Giampedraglia, an insurance agent.

Even if the damage isn't enough to need that insurance, Custer County Disaster Services wants to hear about it.

"What we do is we can apply for grants for further protection or better systems, or maybe we can help the homeowners in some way," said Alexander.

Carl Alexander and Custer County Disaster Services can be reached by phone at 208-833-6168 or email at

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