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Earthquake expert says Reno is not ready for its next big shake

Since July, a swarm of several hundred earthquakes has been shaking up an area of desolate wilderness in the northwestern corner of the state. Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss reports that even though Reno is dodging that bullet, one expert from the University of Nevada, Reno says it's a good reminder that the city is not prepared for a major earthquake.

This event resembles the Mogul swarm of 2008, which caused some costly property damage to homes in northwestern Reno and ultimately piqued with a magnitude 5 quake.

Graham Kent who leads the Nevada Seismological Lab says it's easy to draw a comparison between what's happened in Reno and what's taken place over in Napa, California.

"One of the things that we learned from the Napa earthquake, the magnitude 6 that just happened, is about a decade ago, they had a magnitude 5.1 and they noticed based on a lot of the damage patterns what could be done just in case they had a larger earthquake."

While Napa has spent the last decade getting ready for a larger event, which ultimately took place in September, Kent says Reno has not been preparing.

"So the question is: When we get our magnitude 6, are we going to fare as well as Napa? And I would say, 'Absolutely not.'"

Kent says securing the structures around Reno wouldn't necessarily require big money and even some relatively small expenditures helped to minimize the damage in Napa.

"It required less than a $5,000 retrofit, and everybody who did that, their homes are standing today, and almost everybody who didn't--they got red-tagged. So going cheap for $3,000 or $4,000 has cost a whole host of people in Napa their homes and businesses."

Most of the earthquakes in this current swarm have been mild, but the activity has increased with several magnitude 4s and 5s in the past week. The largest outlying community that could be affected if the shaking continues to intensify would be the town of Lake View, Oregon, where 2,500 people live.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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