Pair of powerful earthquakes strike Western Montana


A U.S. Geological Survey map of the first 5.8 magnitude temblor.

Social media lit up early Thursday morning with reports of two significant earthquakes that rattled Western Montana, the first striking at 12:30 a.m.

That was followed six minutes later by a second temblor and several lesser aftershocks.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the first 5.8 magnitude quake struck 80 miles east of Missoula at a depth of three miles. The second quake had a magnitude of roughly 4.9 and could be heard seconds before it hit.

“I could hear the second one coming for about 8 to 10 seconds before it hit,” one Missoula witness reported. “It was a faint rumble, like a jet taking off in the distance. The house creaked and seemed to sway, and the chimes began to clang.”

Witnesses from across the region reported feeling the temblors, including residents in Missoula, Bozeman, Helena and Salmon, Idaho. Residents in Lincoln, closest to the epicenter, reported “strong” to “very strong” motion.

No immediate reports of damage were reported, though 9-1-1 dispatchers were swamped with calls.

“Shook the house and beds,” one witness in Craig reported. “Lasted for about six or seven seconds, but had aftershock that lasted about three seconds.”

Several dozen Missoula residents reported feeling the quakes.

“Standing in kitchen and was almost knocked off my feet,” one Miller Creek resident reported. “Have been through many quakes, this one is the hardest hitting one I have felt. Almost violent shaking, house was moving for a good 20 seconds after quake then the second one hit and rocked the house hard a second time.”

“I’m from SoCal where earthquakes are a norm, and this one scared the living daylights out of me,” another Missoula witness on McDonald Avenue reported.

The aftershocks continued throughout the early morning. The U.S.G.S. reported at least three additional temblors, including a magnitude 4.5 at 1:02 a.m., a 3.9 at 1:08 a.m. and a 4.4 at 1:27 a.m.

“We are staying at Holiday Inn in Missoula MT on the third floor,” a Missoula visitor reported. “It felt like the bottom floors were being swept from underneath us!”

This article originally appeared on Missoula Current, an independent online newspaper, of which Martin Kidston is the founding editor.

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