U-Idaho Geologists Help with Earthquake Hazard Preparedness in Blaine County

Tuesday, April 9 2013

BLAINE COUNTY, Idaho – The Sun Valley area of Blaine County is famous for its scenery and recreational opportunities. Less well known is the region’s potential to be shaken by strong earthquakes. 

Geologists from the Idaho Geological Survey, or IGS, at the University of Idaho are working this month to identify areas in Blaine County that would be most affected in the event of a damaging earthquake. The results of the survey will inform county leaders and residents how to better prepare for seismic hazards.

“Scientists from Idaho State University recently discovered new evidence for an active fault in the Sawtooth Range less than 30 miles from Ketchum,” said William Phillips, IGS research geologist. “This fault could potentially produce earthquakes large enough to strongly shake the Sun Valley area. Our work is designed to identify areas in the Wood River Valley which are susceptible to amplification of shaking or ground liquefaction during an earthquake.”

During the week of April 15-20, IGS geologists, led by Kerrie Weppner, will conduct surveys at multiple sites in Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley. The surveys involve dropping a 150-pound weight on the ground and using a string of geophone sensors to record the velocity of the seismic waves produced. The data is used to determine the type and thickness of deposits beneath the surface and how they will react during earthquakes. The survey does not damage the surface and no explosives or large trucks are used.

The survey results will be provided to local emergency planners and to county and city officials. They will also be available for free download by the public on the IGS website at www.idahogeology.org. The information will include a map showing ground response to seismic shaking and susceptibility to liquefaction, in which sandy deposits lose strength due to shaking and can cause structures above to sink or topple. The results are slated to be released by September 2013.

IGS and the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security are funding the study.

The Idaho Geological Survey is a public service and research agency at the University of Idaho. Idaho statute directs the survey to collect, interpret and disseminate geologic and mineral data for the state. Members of the Idaho Geological Survey staff acquire geologic information through field and laboratory investigations and through cooperative programs with other governmental and private agencies.
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Media Contacts: Tara Roberts, University Communications-Research, (208) 885-7725, troberts@uidaho.eduKerrie Weppner (onsite contact in Blaine County), Idaho Geological Survey, (307) 690-9442, kerriew@uidaho.edu; William Phillips, Idaho Geological Survey, (208) 301-8794, phillips@uidaho.edu