170 miles due west of the Yellowstone super-volcano lies the small town of Challis, Idaho – the residents of which have been shaken from a sudden swarm of earthquakes.

They have a historical reason to be concerned: The Challis-Mackay region experienced extensive damage on October 28, 1983, when the Borah Peak earthquake occurred measuring 6.9 on the Richter Scale (originally reported at 7.3).

The happenings of geophysical earth is intertwined in many ways – some of which we know about and others which we have no clue. Given the attention of several recent earthquakes (Los Angeles, Chile, and others) and now this earthquake swarm in Idaho, should remind us of the earthquake hazards that many of us face – hazards which go unnoticed or ignored by most.

When the earth moves under our feet, we take notice. When the earth moves a-lot, red flags go up. The recent earthquakes in Idaho began March 24, 2014 and have researchers scrambling to install seismic monitoring systems in the region to learn more.

Hundreds of earthquakes have just struck central Idaho with magnitudes ranging in the 2’s, 3’s and 4’s (the largest measuring 4.9 on the Richter Scale).


The Challis (Idaho) earthquakes have hearts racing as pictures are knocked from walls, dishes are rattled off tables and felt by residents in neighboring Montana more than 100 miles from the quake’s epicenter region.

People are asking: ‘Is this going to lead to a bigger earthquake?’ to which the answer nearly always is ‘we simply don’t know.’ Idaho’s quakes are typically caused by broad-scale deformation of the Western United States as a result of plate tectonics.

On Monday alone (4/14), more than 100 tremors shook the region while scientists scrambled to install special portable seismometers in the area to more closely track and triangulate the activity, allowing more pinpoint locations of the earthquakes, including depth. They’ll also be able to record smaller quakes, down to about a 1.0 magnitude.

“Such earthquake swarms typically are associated with the movement of molten rock below ground,” which geologists credited for the recent quake cluster at Yellowstone National Park, “or they may be linked to an active fault,” said Bill Phillips, a geologist with the Idaho Geological Survey at the University of Idaho.

“What has many of us scratching our heads is the present-day swarm doesn’t appear to be on the big, active fault in the area that ruptured in 1983 and caused the largest earthquake in Idaho,” Phillips said.

(Perhaps suggesting magma movement?)

There are four known volcano locations in Idaho. The Shoshone lava field north of Twin Falls, The Craters of the Moon located at the NW end of the Snake River Plain, The Wapi lava field, SE of the Craters of the Moon, and Hell’s Half Acre in the Snake River Plain.

And of course, there’s Yellowstone…


On a semi-related note:
How Bad Would A Yellowstone Eruption Be?

As the future unfolds, we may learn more about what is going on near Challis, Idaho. Could it be related to magma on the move in yet unknown magma tunnels deep beneath the surface? Could it in any way be linked with the recent activity at Yellowstone? There are lots of questions but there are few answers.

Best to be prepared for disaster. A food storage of several weeks at minimum – ideally 3-months, and a backup supply of water (1-gallon per person per day) is a bare minimum recommendation for survival preparedness. Whenever the earth shakes, let it remind you of your preparedness…

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