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‘I heard the roar’: Big earthquake hits Idaho

Idaho quake USGS
U.S. Geological Survey
Location of Idaho earthquake, about 80 miles northeast of Boise

Sunriver-area resident says his, friend's chandeliers were swaying

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A large earthquake struck about 80 miles northeast of Boise Tuesday evening, with people across a large area reporting shaking.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports the magnitude 6.5 temblor struck just before 6 p.m. It was centered 73 miles northeast of Meridian, near the rural mountain town of Stanley. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

More than 2 million people live in the region that could feel the Idaho quake, according to the USGS, with reports of shaking coming in from as far away as Helena, Montana, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Stan Porter, who lives in the Oregon Water Wonderland II subdivision south of Sunriver, said he didn't feel the quake, but a friend who lives along the Deschutes River had called to ask if his chandelier was swaying, too -- and it was.

"We don't have an upstairs, so someone didn't fall down upstairs," Porter said.

Marcus Smith, an emergency room health unit coordinator at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center, said the quake shook the hospital, about 65 miles south of the epicenter, but it didn’t interfere with the treatment of any patients.

The hospital in Blaine County is on the front line of Idaho’s coronavirus outbreak, in a region with the nation’s highest per-capita rates of known COVID-19 cases outside of New York City and its surrounding counties.

“It felt like a wave going through the ground, so I knew right away what it was. It just felt like waves going through the ground,” he said.

The earthquake added stress during an already tense time for the region, but Smith said everything seemed fine, for now. “Until the next one, I guess,” Smith said. “I mean, that’s what we do. We’re all good.”

Brett Woolley, the owner of Bridge Street Grill in Stanley, said he heard the earthquake coming before he felt it.

“I heard the roar, and at first it sounded like the wind but then the roar was tremendous,” Woolley said about 10 minutes after the earthquake. “The whole house was rattling, and I started to panic. I’m sitting here perfectly still and the water next to me is still vibrating.”

Dr. Lucy Jones, a seismologist at Caltech and the founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Seismology, said the Idaho region has an earthquake of about this size every 30 or 40 years. The most recent one, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake near Borah Peak in 1983, killed two children in Challis and caused an estimated $12.5 million in property damage across Challis and Mackay.

That quake was along what scientists call a “normal fault,” with the quake causing vertical movement, she said. Tuesday’s quake appeared to be on an unmapped “strike-slip fault,” causing mostly horizontal movement along the fault line.

“This is one that wasn’t obvious enough to be mapped before now,” Jones said.

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