A series of seismic events in rural Nevada this week could have caused significant economic and insured losses if centered a short distance to a population center, argues a leading researcher.
Three magnitude 5.5 to 5.7 earthquakes struck about 18 miles southwest of Hawthorne on December 28, according to the Nevada Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada.
According to the laboratory, strong shaking was reported in Hawthorne, Nevada and Bridgeport, California area, and the earthquake was felt as far away as San Francisco, Reno, Las Vegas.
The quakes were part of the longer series events that produced 16 earthquakes larger than magnitude 3.0 in the region, including two magnitude 4.0 to 4.1 tremblors.
While the remote nature of the earthquakes indicates minimal damage, the head of laboratory argued that the point to the state’s significant seismic risk.
“If you put this underneath Reno, we are probably looking at a $1 billion event, probably with some fatalities and many casualties,” Graham Kent, director of the the state’s Seismological Laboratory told the Associated Press. “It’s much better to be beneath a ranch 20 miles outside of Hawthorne.”
Hawthorne is about 100 miles southeast of Reno.
Research from the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (NBMG) estimates $1.9 billion losses from a magnitude 6 earthquake striking Reno, with a 67% chance of quake of that magnitude striking the city in the next 50 years. At greatest risk is Carson City, which could sustain $650 million in economic losses and has a 70% chance of a major quake striking the the next five decades.
Nevada ranks third in the country for major earthquakes, according to the United States Geological Survey.