master the disaster

By Jim Stanford on April 21, 2011

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Watching the scenes of devastation from last month’s tsunami in Japan, it was hard not to think of Wilson, Wyo., if Jackson Lake Dam were to give way.

When the big quake comes, Jackson Hole residents will be better prepared than most to handle the fallout, with elk for food, wood for fuel and just about every piece of camping and outdoor equipment known to man. Best prepared of all might be the Yin-Yang Ranch in Wilson, where proprietors Diane Benefiel, an EMT, and husband Keith are veterans of Search and Rescue.

Diane, who also survived swine flu last year, has organized today’s Disaster Awareness Night at the Old Wilson Schoolhouse. A litany of emergency service providers will be on hand to share tips so that when disaster strikes, residents will be ready. As Diane and co-organizer Rich Ochs, Teton County Emergency Management coordinator, point out, when the big one comes, it won’t be a rescuer giving you a hand up out of the rubble; it will be a neighbor.

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4.1 quake shakes Hole

By Jim Stanford on April 1, 2011

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The quake occurred at a depth of about 3 miles below the Earth's surface.

This is not an April Fool’s joke — an earthquake did occur shortly before 7 a.m. today.

It woke me up, and everything shook for several seconds. The quake hit between Jackson and Pinedale, along South Beaver Creek about 11 miles south of Bondurant.

A report from the University of Utah seismograph network can be found here.

The frequency of these quakes seems to be picking up, eh? Magnitude 4 is becoming routine.

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how safe is Idaho nuke lab in event of quake?

By Jim Stanford on March 16, 2011

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The INL Advanced Test Reactor compound west of Idaho Falls. The reactor is the most powerful of its kind in the United States.

As reactors melt down and release radiation in the wake of a 9.0 earthquake in Japan, it’s natural to wonder about the safety of the nuclear facility near Idaho Falls, 100 miles upwind of Jackson Hole.

The Idaho National Laboratory sits in the middle of a seismically active area where more than 9,300 quakes occurred between 1972 and 2007, according to its website. The largest of those quakes was the 7.3-magnitude Borah Peak temblor in 1983, which killed two children in Challis, caused an estimated $12.5 million in damage and lifted the state’s highest peak by 7 feet.

Although there are fault lines in the surrounding ranges, the nuclear lab is located in the Snake River plain, where only minor quakes — less than 2.0 in magnitude — have been recorded since the monitoring system was installed, according to the facility’s website.

But a watchdog group in Jackson Hole, Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free, says the lab doesn’t have enough safeguards. Of particular concern, says the group’s executive director, James Powell, is the cooling system in the main reactor, where pipes run through unreinforced concrete and could rupture in a quake.

“All the backup systems in place would be useless if the pipes getting water to the reactor are broken,” Powell says.

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4.6 quake shakes Hole

By Jim Stanford on October 24, 2010

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The epicenter was near Upper Slide Lake and Slate Creek in the Gros Ventres.

This is becoming routine, but might as well pass on the USGS report.

The quake struck at 11:44 a.m., triggering a flurry of Facebook status updates. The temblor was magnitude 4.6, centered in the Gros Ventres 25 miles east of Teton Village. My house in east Jackson shook for several seconds.

Funny, just this morning I contemplated swapping out the Wyoming Earthquakes link on the list of “Fall Essentials” at left in favor of the Teton Pass web cam, given the 12 to 18 inches of snow in the forecast.

Update: Geologists later downgraded the quake to 4.4.

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quake watch along Teton Fault?

By Jim Stanford on August 5, 2010

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Today is a good day to be in the business of selling earthquake insurance.

Yep, there's an app for that, too.

After being all shook up by the last few quakes around Jackson, somehow I missed yesterday’s 4.8 temblor up the Gros Ventres. Perhaps it’s because I was on the west side of the Snake River at Moose, greeting clients for a float trip. It would have been fun, and weird, to feel the rumble on the water.

For the last year or so, as earthquakes have rocked places around the world (Haiti, for instance), I’ve been sensing a big one coming for Jackson Hole. The Teton Fault is, after all, long overdue, geologists tell us. The Earth is restless. Probably just silly superstition.

But once again I’ve moved the Wyoming Earthquakes link to the “Summer Essentials” column at left, just in case. Also, via Mikey Franco, comes word there’s an iPhone app for earthquake reports, called QuakeWatch. Good day to be in the business of selling such apps.

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