The last thing on anyone’s mind around the Powder River valley is earthquake.  Granted we are in a pretty low risk area for earthquake but we are not in the lowest possible category.    In fact, according to the United States Geologic Survey,  we have a 2% probability of exceeding 1/10th of the force of gravity (horizontally) in the next 50 years. Compare that with Jackson Hole (where I moved from to come here) which has a 2% chance of exceeding twice the force of gravity (horizontally) in the next 50 years.  Holy accelerometer Batman! What does that mean in English?

If you have a roof covered with a hundred thousand pounds of snow and you have a 1/10th G (gravity) earthquake horizontal acceleration, you have the equivalent to a truck pushing with 10000 pounds of force against the top of the building.  Some buildings might fail.  In Jackson Hole, that means a 2 G (gravity) horizontal acceleration so that the same hundred thousand pounds of snow load transmits over 200000 pounds of force through the walls to the ground.  Most buildings would fail catastrophically even without a snow load.  I chose to move away from Jackson Hole for this (and a few other reasons).  We have a much reduced danger of quake damage than they do just 450 miles away.

Even so, there are a few things that you can do to limit damage from a local quake.  First and most important, tie your water heater (especially the gas ones) to the wall with furnace strap (available at Copps hardware for a few bucks).  This will prevent broken gas lines and keep the water around for emergency use later. Tie large appliances that might tip over to the wall with cord or furnace strap.  Some commercial velcro products are available on the internet for such purposes.  This also is a good idea if you have a big TV and little kids that might tip it over on themselves.  Always have a wrench to shut off your natural or LP gas handy. Remember that once you shut off the gas, the gas company has to turn it back on.)  The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dictates having a minimum 3 days supply of fresh water for each person in your household and enough food for the same group during the interval.  On the other extreme of advice, the Morman Church dictates having at least a years food reserve and water along with water filters on hand for emergency.  I indicate it is a good idea to have supplies somewhere in between these two extremes and you should be good to go for any seismic emergency that may shake up the area.

Of course this does not take into account the highly unlikely event portrayed in the recent Discovery Channel Docu/Drama “Super Volcano” where Yellowstone had a worst case possible eruption of the caldera there.  If that occurs, consider yourself lucky to have a front row seat for a change.  The rest of the worlds survivors will need more than a years supply of disaster supplies.  It won’t matter to us but at least we would get to see the molten glass falling from the 25000 foot high lava fountain.