BOISE With the deadly earthquake rumbling Chile this week, we asked an expert if Idaho could see a temblor as devastating, and how prepared are we if the big one does happen here?
While Idaho has had quite a few quakes over the years, the likelihood of a very powerful one is very low, according to scientists.
Jeffrey Johnson is a geophysicist at Boise State University. He says we can expect, on average, a magnitude 8 earthquake, somewhere in the world about every two years.
But Johnson says don't expect to see a quake that big here in Idaho.
Now that's not to say Idaho doesn't have seismicity, but the maximum earthquakes that are expected here are far smaller, said Johnson.
Idaho's most powerful earthquake occurred in 1983. The Borah Peak quake had a magnitude of 6.9.
We are in an active mountain building region. But those earthquakes are generally pretty small, said Johnson.
In the last week, there were about five earthquakes in Idaho, most with a magnitude around 3.0. The highest was 3.1, and each quake was reported near Challis.
Magnitude 3 earthquake is about the threshold where some human somewhere will feel the effects of that earthquake, said Johnson.
Despite the low likelihood of a significant quake, the Idaho Department of Homeland Security is prepared for the big one.
We have developed an emergency operations plan that identifies roles and responsibilities for agencies and organizations, how they would step up, how they would interact and how they would respond to an earthquake, said Rob Feeley with the Idaho Department of Homeland Security.
While the government has a plan in place, Feeley says all of us should be prepared as well, with a little food and water on hand in case critical services are not available.
While preparation is important, the earthquake forecast in Idaho doesn't worry Johnson.
I sleep well at night considering the seismic hazards, globally and in Idaho as well. Meaning, I don't stay up late at night worrying about that, said Johnson.
When asked if there is any indication that we're seeing more earthquakes and at higher magnitudes than in years past, Johnson said while there seemed to be a cluster of large earthquakes from 2004 to 2012, there is no indication that the number of quakes across the world are increasing.
Something else of note, in the past week we've had the Chile earthquake, an earthquake in California, one in Yellowstone and several here in Idaho. Johnson says there are no connections between those earthquakes or other earthquakes around the world.