Montanans take cover in statewide earthquake drill


Montanans take cover in state-wide earthquake drill

BUTTE, Mont. - Montana is one of the most seismically active states in the lower 48. On Wednesday, more than 90,000 Montanans around the state learned how to stay safe in an earthquake, in the Great Shake-Out Earthquake Drill.

The United States Geological Service has pinpointed 90 fault lines running through western and southwest Montana.

One of those, the Hebgen Fault, north of West Yellowstone, is responsible for a 7.3 magnitude quake that killed 28 people in 1959, and dammed the Madison River creating Quake Lake.

Montana Tech nursing students participated in the drill Wednesday morning. At 10:23, the students stopped their lesson, and took cover. The nursing students protected their mannequin "patients" first, then covered themselves to wait out the drill.

"You always want to protect the patient before yourself," said nursing student Heather Mavencamp. "It's your job."

Mavencamp said it's important to take an exercise like this seriously.

"You want to be prepared for everything," she said.

We're told the best thing to do in an earthquake is to get under a desk or table, drop, cover and hold on. Also, avoid any windows, walls or things that could fall, such as shelves or furniture.

"Montana has a history of damaging earthquakes," said Michael Stickney, an earthquake expert with the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology at Montana Tech.

According to the USGS, a series of earthquakes in 1935 killed four people and did $4 million in damage. And then there was big Hebgen Quake in 1959.

"We've learned that the earth's crust is actually being stretched or pulled apart very slowly, and so we develop normal faults in which one side goes up and the other side goes down," Stickney explained. "That's basically why we have so many of the mountain ranges here in Western Montana."

Stickney explained that western Montana, particularly southwest Montana, shakes regularly, four to five times per day on average. Most are too small for people to notice, but with the state's history, it's important to be prepared.

"We cannot predict when or where they will occur, but we are certain we will have earthquakes in the future," Stickney said.

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