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Southeast Idaho residents endure being at ground zero of earthquake swarm


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Tracy Lakey and her husband David Lakey. | Courtesy photo

SODA SPRINGS — The number of earthquakes occurring near Tracy Lakey’s Soda Springs home is so large that the blue dot indicating her location on a quake tracker app remains only barely visible.

When the 5.3 magnitude temblor occurred Saturday evening, Lakey said it was so loud outside her house that she thought her husband was pulling up to the home in his tractor-trailer.

“We are just living right in the middle of these earthquakes, I mean the epicenters are completely surrounding our farm,” Lakey said. “When I was standing at the window when the 5.3 earthquake hit, it knocked over some stuff on my shelves and knocked down a picture at my mother-in-law’s house next door.”

Since the earthquakes began Saturday evening, several dozen Southeast Idaho residents have reported not only hearing the sound of the Earth’s crust grinding together, but have also felt the walls of their homes shaking and swaying.

As of Wednesday morning, 130 earthquakes have occurred since Saturday in the Caribou County area, according to the University of Utah Seismograph Stations.

After the 5.3 quake on Saturday, Lakey said tremors would occur every five to seven minutes.

“Last night, I timed them and they were coming through about 12 to 15 times every 20 minutes for a couple hours,” Lakey said in a Tuesday phone interview, during which another tremor occurred. “Other times, like now, they are just sporadic.”

When the tremors break out, Lakey said it sounds like a constant little rumble that breaks through.

“We can hear a bang and what sounds like a train coming through right outside my window,” Lakey said.

Coincidentally, for the last two weeks Lakey has been collecting information from sisters at her church to order and put together 72-hour emergency kits.

“I’m thinking the numbers of people ordering the kits might have gone up a bit after all these earthquakes,” Lakey told the Idaho State Journal.

The good news is that experts say the chance of a worst-case 7.0 temblor happening is very low.

“While we can’t guarantee that there won’t be a larger quake in this area, the possibility is extremely low,” said Shannon Kobs Nawotniak, an Idaho State University geosciences assistant professor who studies earthquakes. “We live in a seismically active area, so everyone should always be up to date on their earthquake safety, just like they would for a fire drill. It is prudent to be prepared, even when the likelihood of the event is very low.”

Lakey said this is the first slew of earthquakes she has experienced since moving to the area in 2007. But the same can’t be said for her in-laws — who have lived in Soda Springs for decades.

“My in-laws told me that back in the ’80s we had some of the same things happening and it lasted for a few months,” Lakey said. “And in the late ’40s or early ’50s, it was so bad that my in-laws ended up sleeping in their cars.”

The earthquakes occurring over the last few days are beginning to affect the Lakeys in a similar fashion as the couple is using their camper trailer in order to sleep through the night.

Georgetown resident Lonna Davis said that if she is busy doing something, she doesn’t notice the quakes as much. But when she arrived home on Saturday evening, the 5.3 quake was so powerful that it nearly knocked her off balance.

“It’s crazy out here,” Davis said. “I’m thinking that maybe this is going to go on indefinitely.”

Davis said she hasn’t noticed any extensive damage to her home or any of her belongings other than a few items falling from shelves.

Though she has lived in Georgetown for more than 10 years, Davis said she has also never experienced anything like the most recent swarm of earthquakes.

“There have been some one-time occurrences that I wondered if it was an earthquake but nothing like this before,” Davis said. “I keep wondering if this is going to get worse or when it will ever let up.”

In addition to finding and locating her 72-hour emergency kits, Davis said the recent earthquakes served as a friendly reminder to prepare for a larger disaster.

“We recently purchased some of those filtered straws for drinking water,” Davis said. “And because my husband goes through dialysis every night at home, we’ve got a generator and some gas on hand in case we were to lose power.”

For now, daily routines are a bit more eventful with the occasional shake. Lakey describes them as feeling like someone is slamming their fist to the bottom of the house.

“The house shakes like a bag of popcorn, then the quake hits and the house rocks from one side to the other like a ship in the ocean,” Lakey said. “I’m starting to get used to them and until the big ones come they are livable. I just hope that something bigger isn’t coming.”

This article was originally published in the Idaho State Journal. It is used here with permission.