Earthquake rattles Western Montana

Tremors felt in Boise County, Idaho Falls
Posted at 5:28 AM, Jul 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-06 19:49:37-04

Experts believe Wednesday's rumble is the largest earthquake to hit Montana since 1964.

The magnitude 5.8 tremor shook at 12:30 a.m. Based on its epicenter, residents living in the small town of Lincoln felt it most. A magnitude 4.5 quake rattled the same area in Western Montana about five minutes later with nine smaller aftershocks to follow.

The waves were felt here in the Gem state, Washington and Wyoming. 

No injuries to report but Western Montana's earthquake rocked shelves at grocery stores and made a mess.

Early Wednesday morning, folks were reminded the earth is alive. The entire Intermountain West is prone to earthquakes due to several fault systems. Still, they are few and far in between for most areas.

"I thought... that fan is not big enough to shake my bed," said Brian Antes, a former Treasure Valley resident. "So, then I was searching for other explanations for it."

Antes was just about asleep when he felt the earthquake in Kalispell. A local geosciences professor weighed in on the likelihood of more to come in the Western Montana area.

"There's a small chance this is a precursor to a larger one but likely not," said Lee Liberty, a research professor at Boise State University.

Liberty said the risk of a large tremor in the Treasure Valley is relatively low. He indicated it's a more likely scenario for the Eastern Idaho area.

"The Yellowstone [Park] area is very seismically active, and we expect to see magnitude four's and five's pretty regularly in that area," he said. "When we start to see larger magnitude earthquakes then it's a little bit more of concern."

At BSU, a show and tell seismometer sits inside the environmental research building on the first floor. It may be small scale but is the wave of the future for experts working toward monitoring all seismic activity as smaller quakes are often indicators of larger ones to come, according to Liberty. One day, more timely predictions could help give people like Antes a heads up.

"It was definitely enough to shock you and say, 'whoa what was that,' (laughs)," Antes said.

Considering the fact the Treasure Valley area lies in an earthquake prone region and wildfire season is upon us, you may want to consider piecing together an emergency, 72-hour kit.