Earthquake shakes Boise with 6.5 magnitude that could be Idaho’s second-strongest ever

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BOISE, Idaho — An earthquake shook the Boise area about 5:53 p.m. Mountain Daylight time on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The shaking was reported to last for 20 to 30 seconds, with a small pause.

U.S. Geological Survey pegged the earthquake at 6.5 magnitude with an epicenter in the mountains northwest of Stanley. The epicenter was about 28 miles west of Challis, the National Weather Service said.

There were at least five aftershocks, according to USGS: a 4.6 at 6:27 p.m., a 3.6 at 6:01 p.m., a 3.4 at 6:49 p.m., a 3.5 at 7:03 p.m. and a 3.3 at 7:13 p.m.

Stanley Mayor Steve Botti said as of 6:15 p.m. he hadn’t seen any damage in his town yet.

“Stuff was flying all over the place,” Botti said. “I was upstairs and I tried to walk down the steps and I couldn’t because it was shaking too much.” According to the Idaho Statesman archive, the 6.5 magnitude would be the second-largest earthquake in Idaho history if it stands (the number often is adjusted with more information). The Borah Peak earthquake, which was a magnitude 6.9, killed two people in Challis near the quake’s epicenter. The second-largest is a three-way tie at 5.8 from 1983-84.

The five strongest previous Idaho earthquakes were all in the Challis area.

Expect more earthquakes in the days to come, USGS says. There’s a 99% chance of aftershocks of magnitude 3 or higher and a 48% chance of a magnitude 5 quake or higher, its forecast says.

“According to our forecast, over the next one week there is a 4% chance of one or more aftershocks that are larger than magnitude 6.5,” the USGS forecast says. “It is likely that there will be smaller earthquakes over the next one week, with 4 to 790 magnitude 3 or higher aftershocks. Magnitude 3 and above are large enough to be felt near the epicenter. The number of aftershocks will drop off over time, but a large aftershock can increase the numbers again, temporarily.” “We don’t have any reports of damage just yet,” Hayley Williams of Boise Police said.

“We haven’t sent any first responders out — police or fire,” Stephany Galbreaith of Meridian Police said.

“Our first responders are out doing building checks downtown. We’ve already done a scan of all of our public works facilities and they all look good,” Boise Mayor Lauren McLean said.

Idaho resident Anna Eberlin sent the Idaho Statesman a photo of a mirror that crashed in her house.

“A large mirror fell off our wall and shattered,” she said. “It scared my kids and me half to death. Everyone is OK after some tears and nervous excitement about their first earthquake.” Typically Idaho earthquakes tend to occur in the central and southeast parts of the state. Recently, a swarm of low-magnitude quakes rumbled across Southern Idaho and parts of Utah and California. Idaho’s last strong earthquake was in 1983.

Two earthquakes rattled the Boise area in the mid-1940s, according to the Idaho Geological Survey. Another in 1916 “wrecked several brick chimneys at Boise and sent residents rushing into the street.” There were immediate reports that the earthquake was felt in Coeur d’Alene, Twin Falls and Hailey in Idaho; Spokane, Wash.; Utah; and Missoula and Bozeman, Mont.

“I am from Florida and we have always had hurricanes growing up, but I had never been in an earthquake,” Kurt Wisehart of Boise said. “This was the first time for me, which is why I walked out ’cause this is weird. Like, what’s everyone do?” Zach Borman of Meridian said he and his wife experienced nausea after the quake.

“Felt a bit longer than a minute,” Borman said. “While minding our social-distancing business, the house started a low rumbling. I assumed it was a heavy wind, or some sort of issue with our air conditioning, but my wife and the dogs were both reacting to it and it just kept going. My first thought when I realized it was probably an earthquake was: ‘Wow. More stacked on top (of the coronavirus pandemic)? Way to add insult to injury.’”

Spencer Tangen of the National Weather Service in Boise said it might not be unusual to feel aftershocks with an earthquake that size. So did McLean.

“I’d just like the community to know that there is likely a very real possibility with a quake of that size that you’ll feel more,” McLean said.

Savannah Brehmer, spokeswoman for FEMA Region 10, which includes Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Alaska, said you should not attempt to run outside or hide in a doorway during an earthquake.

“Dropping, covering and holding on is the best action to take as soon as you realize an earthquake has hit,” Brehmer said. “That’s what’s going to keep your most precious organs safe from potential injury.”


(Idaho Statesman special correspondent Rocky Barker contributed.)


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