Reno prepares for worst as quakes continue

RENO, Nev. — Scientists urged residents of northern Nevada’s largest city to prepare for a bigger event as the area continued rumbling Saturday after the largest earthquake in a two-month-long series of temblors.

More than 100 aftershocks were recorded on the western edge of the city after a magnitude 4.7 quake hit Friday night, the strongest quake around Reno since one measuring 5.2 in 1953, said researchers at the seismological laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The latest quake swept store shelves clean, cracked walls in homes and dislodged rocks on hillsides, but there were no reports of injuries or widespread major damage.

Seismologists said the recent activity is unusual because the quakes started out small and continue to build in strength. The normal pattern is for a main quake followed by smaller aftershocks.

“A magnitude 6 quake wouldn’t be a scientific surprise,” John Anderson, director of the seismological lab, said Saturday. “We certainly hope residents are taking the threat seriously after last night.”

But Anderson stressed there was no way to predict what would happen, and said the sequence of quakes also could end without a major one.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Friday night’s quake was centered around Mogul, just west of Reno. The area of upscale homes along the eastern Sierra was rattled by more than 100 quakes the day before, the strongest a magnitude 4.2 that caused high-rise casinos to sway in downtown Reno.

Hundreds of mostly minor quakes have occurred along one or possibly more faults since the sequence began Feb. 28, said Ken Smith, a seismologist at the Reno laboratory. The quakes have occurred along an area about 2 miles long and a half-mile wide.

“We can’t put a number on it, but the probability of a major earthquake has increased with this sequence,” Smith said Saturday. “People need to prepare for ground shaking because there’s no way to say how this will play out.”

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