At 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning a magnitude-5.8 earthquake with an epicenter southeast of Lincoln, Montana, shook people from their sleep in Big Sky and was felt across hundreds of miles that reached as far as eastern Washington, Idaho and southern Canada. Minor damages, but no fatalities, have been reported.
“I had just gotten into bed when I felt the earthquake last night,” said Big Sky resident Kevin Noble. “I’m originally from California so I know what they feel like, but I was still really surprised that one happened here. I thought Yellowstone was finally blowing its lid.”
Slightly stronger than the magnitude-5.6 quake that hit nearby in July 2005 causing minor damage, last night’s quake was the strongest to hit western Montana in years according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“Honestly the earthquake really freaked me out,” another local, Josh Spivey said. “I used to work in Yellowstone, and you never know when that things going to blow. When I felt it last night I was expecting to see the top of a mountain going off outside my window. I used to feel them all the time in Yellowstone but I’ve never felt one here, which is why it scared me so much.”
This quake follows a magnitude-4.4 earthquake that struck 8 miles north of West Yellowstone on June 15. The event was part of a recorded “swarm” of more than 700 seismic events that occurred over the course of two weeks. Yellowstone National Park’s geologist said such swarms are common occurrences at the park.
Western Montana and northwestern Wyoming have experienced at least 16 other magnitude-5+ earthquakes within 185 miles of today’s over the past century. The largest was the August 1959 7.2-magnitude Hebgen Lake earthquake—the largest historic event in the intermountain region. The Hebgen Lake earthquake triggered a large landslide that resulted in significant damage and more than 28 fatalities.
“It wasn’t my first earthquake,” said Mindy Cummings, another Big Sky resident. “But I was still pretty scared when I felt it last night. Luckily no damage was done.”