The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is reporting a series of earthquakes in the sparsely populated state of Nevada this morning (December 28, 2016), beginning with two 5.7-magnitude quakes, which are moderately strong earthquakes. A quake of that strength can wake people up, and overturn unstable objects, but is unlikely to cause severe damage. The first earthquake was at 8:18 UTC (just after midnight local time), and the second was four minutes later. Multiple aftershocks followed, plus at least one more moderately strong quake (5.5-magnitude). The quakes are centered southwest of the town Hawthorne (population just over 3,000 people, according to a 2010 census).
People in Gardnerville, Reno, Sparks, Carson City, rural Nevada and parts of California have reported feeling some shaking.
Las Vegas – the largest city in Nevada with a population of about 600,000 according to a 2013 census was about 300 miles (480 km) southeast of the site of the quakes. San Francisco, California was about the same distance away, to the west.
Due to the sparse population in this region, USGS reports:
… There is a low likelihood of casualties and damage.
Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are resistant to earthquake shaking, though some vulnerable structures exist.
Bottom line: A series of moderately strong earthquakes took place on December 28, 2016 near Hawthorne, Nevada.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.