Small earthquakes hit northwest Montana

An image capture of the recent earthquakes in the Flathead Valley from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Some residents in northwest Montana have been buzzing about a recent series of earthquakes.

In the month of January, Bigfork, Somers and Whitefish have all had earthquakes that registered below magnitude 3.0.

Bigfork resident, Bill Mcguffie, says he was watching Jeopardy Monday evening at his home in Bigfork when he felt it.

"Then suddenly it was a huge jolt, maybe like an automobile running into the other end of the house," Mcguffie said.

He knew what it was, another earthquake.

“We’ve had three this year,” he said.

Either way, he posted on social media to see if anyone else had felt it.

"Somebody said after I posted, well, you know Bill, you do live on a fault, and I said, yes, but it's not my fault."

Montana has a lot of faults lines, which John Bellini, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey, describes rock fractures that can shift at any time.

Bellini says this recent seismic activity is normal, but despite the regularity of the quakes, some residents haven't felt them because they're too small.

Bellini also says because of their small size, whether someone is active around the house or in their car can make the difference on whether they feel them or not.

After Alaska’s magnitude 7.9 earthquake on Monday, some are wondering if something of that size can now happen in Montana.

"Historically, there have been big earthquakes in Montana,” said Mike Stickney from the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology at Montana Tech.

“It's been a really long time since we've had one in the state, but they have happened before, and from a geological standpoint they can happen again at a time we can’t predict" said Stickney.

Bellini says the events are unrelated, although earthquakes can't be predicted, this series of small earthquakes in Montana does not mean a bigger one is coming.

For residents like Bill Mcguffie, the next one isn’t something to take lightly. He remembers being jolted out of bed during an earthquake in July. That one caused glass shelves to shatter in his bathroom as he sought refuge in his bathtub.

"When you start feeling one every week or so, we probably ought to have a plan," said Mcguffie.

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