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Major earthquakes in Montana: Rare, but not out of the question

Posted at 8:23 PM, Jul 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-06 22:30:59-04

BUTTE – The recent earthquakes in California may have you thinking about how often tremblors occur in Montana.

Montana Tech seismologist Mike Stickney tells MTN News that they happen in the Treasure State more often than you might think.

“Montana sees earthquakes on a frequent basis because we are along something called the Intermountain Seismic Belt,” Stickney said.

This belt extends from northwest Montana through Yellowstone into southwest Montana, and small quakes are common. Larger ones are very rare, but they do happen.

One that comes to mind is the deadly Hebgen Lake Quake in 1959 which registered 7.2 on the Richter scale.

“The 60th anniversary is coming up this next month. It ruptured two large faults that were parallel to each other on the north side of the Hebgen Lake basin,” Stickney said.

“Along sections of the Hebgen fault, there was up to 21 feet offset along the faults. So, a large amount of offset over a lengthy series of faults produced a large magnitude earthquake.”

The million-dollar question that seismologists are unable to answer is when the next major quake will hit.

“All the signs are that from a geologic perspective, it is inevitable that there will be future earthquakes of significant magnitude in Montana,” Stickney said.

The good news is that Montana Disaster and Emergency Services does have a plan in place just in case another major earthquake hits in our back yard.

Click here to learn more about earthquake safety.

-Carson Vickroy reporting for MTN News