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When will the big one hit Las Vegas?

UNLV studying earthquake risks in Las Vegas
Posted at 10:35 PM, Feb 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-02 02:41:34-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — No one knows when the big one will hit Las Vegas, but that's not stopping researchers at UNLV from trying to predict if and when it could happen.

UNLV Geoscience Professor Dr. Wanda Taylor has been studying earthquakes for years, specifically in Clark, Lincoln, and Southern Nye Counties.

She's working on a study with UNLV students and researchers from the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology on active faults which span the Las Vegas valley.

“They have had earthquakes within the past few thousand years which do put them in the official category of having earthquake potential," said Taylor.

Inside UNLV, they are using the latest technology to continually monitor earthquake activity in the valley and analyzing data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

There's no shortage of active faults in the valley, about to 5-7 of them.

Many run right through populated areas, and under residential and business areas.

Many people in the valley had no clue they lived just steps away from a fault.

“I know that the road is lifted, but I didn’t know it was a fault line," says one woman.

So how safe is Las Vegas if a significant rumble were to happen?

Dr. Taylor says the valley is already ahead of the game.

In 1996, seismic resistance codes were strengthened in the county.

“Most of the resorts on the strip and downtown as far as I’m concerned are built over code,” Taylor said.

The last time the valley shook was back in May of 2015.

A 4.8 magnitude quake, centered near Caliente, about a hundred miles from Las Vegas, was felt across the valley.

It even caused a crack along U.S. 95 near the 15.

Dr. Taylor says a strong earthquake centered in Las Vegas isn't as likely as in other spots around the state.

An area like Death Valley could create a strong quake that could be felt in Las Vegas.

“A 7 is a strong earthquake, and it would still shake the valley, plus we have the basin effect, which is like jello. If you bonk the sides of the bowl, it wobbles harder than the mountain will,” Taylor said.

Being earthquake-prone state experts say residents at home should always be prepared.

Simple things like securing bookshelves and heavy furniture to the walls, and securing your water heater are suggested.

“That’s a source of water for you, but the thing is they have gas or electricity which can start a fire," said Taylor. “You should have some canned food, a radio, batteries, extra medications.”