Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes

Small quake felt in Thermopolis


November 9, 2017

Last Friday at about 5:11 p.m., there was a 4.2 magnitude earthquake about 39 miles east-southeast of Thermopolis. Around town people might have felt a slight tremor, heard a strange noise or didn't even know the quake had enough force to be felt here until they saw something on the news or social media.

One of the more prominent, but false, reports that spread was that the quake had damaged or destroyed Boysen Dam.

Hot Springs County Emergency Management Coordinator Bill Gordon heard an unconfirmed report that someone had a crack in their ceiling, but it was unknown if that was quake-related. Checking with dispatch on Monday afternoon, he said they had no reports of damage.

According to information from the US Geological Survey, there were some smaller quakes - less than 3.0 magnitude - on Sunday as well. Gordon said there is always potential for aftershocks, but once we get into the realm of 4.2 magnitude quakes he wouldn't be surprised if we don't see aftershocks.

We live in an area where we need to be aware that we can have an earthquake, Gordon said, and preparedness is up to individual residents. In those areas more prone to earthquakes or heavier earthquakes, people are encouraged to strap things such as tall cabinets, furnaces or water heaters to a wall. Gordon concurred that's a good idea, but we're not in a really strong earthquake area.

As with other natural disasters, Gordon noted family plans are the best thing people can do in terms of determining how to communicate if separated during an event. Emergency kits are also a good idea, he said, and can be a simple as having a battery-operated radio and flashlights.

"If the power goes out in an earthquake or any other event," Gordon said, "you'll be in a lot better shape if it's the middle of the night and you can see what's going on." He added flashlights these days are inexpensive, with brighter bulbs, and the batteries can last for days.

Wyoming is, historically, within an earthquake area, Gordon said. He didn't find it unusual to have a 4.2 magnitude quake. "We see them occurring around us all the time. Montana, Idaho, Utah, wherever it might be, there's these shifts that occur." Had the quake been closer, he added, it was still not powerful enough to damage the dam. Other minor things might happen, such as items falling of shelves.

Gordon cautioned about reading reports from satire news sites and taking them as fact, advising to instead find a reputable, reliable source for information on disasters when they happen.

Though the dam didn't break, Gordon is still working to make sure we're prepared should it happen. He's aiming to have a full-scale exercise in the spring or summer, but there could be a smaller exercise before that. He's looking forward to getting back on track with the project, with a focus on county evacuation and flooding issues.

The intention it to come up with a date for the full-scale exercise, Gordon said, and he'd like to do it before the school year is over to get the school district involved as well.

Gordon said he'd like to get the group he had back together and re-focused. He further explained he had a group of 30-35 people representing, among others, themselves, businesses, law enforcement and the fire department who initially met to begin discussion regarding dam failure. They soon realized they needed to first focus on evacuation, and about 10 volunteered to look at just evacuation topics.

"We made some pretty good progress," Gordon said, "and we also found how difficult and complex the issue is." He wants to get the larger group together to share where things are in terms of evacuation and determine a direction for broadening the process. He noted Mary Gordon, the public health response coordinator is taking the lead role in assisting mass care facilities to complete their planning.


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