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Idaho’s Lt. Gov. hears from ISU about earthquake potential

There is a 60 percent chance that counties in Southeastern Idaho could see a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake within the next 50 years.

That’s from a presentation done by Idaho State University’s Bengal Solutions team. Bengal Solutions has been working on research to help counties prepare for such an emergency.

On Thursday afternoon, the team presented its findings to Idaho’s Lt. Gov. Brad Little. Representatives from the Idaho Office of Emergency Management and Southeastern Idaho Public Health were also there.

Bengal Solutions was approached by IOEM to do the study. The team has been working on it for about six months.

The team focused on four counties that they felt were most likely to be most impacted by an earthquake. Those counties were Franklin, Caribou, Oneida and Bear Lake. Those counties were chosen because they lie either on or near the Wasatch Fault Line or the Bear Lake Fault.

The team looked at potential economic loss for each county, including debris, building damage, and monetary costs. It also looked at social impacts, effects on transportation, and the potential number of injuries and casualties.

The team used a lot of data from the U.S. Geological Survey. It also analyzed a similar 6.0 magnitude earthquake in Wells, Nevada. Wells is a similar town in structure and population that several cities in those four counties would be.

Through their work, Bengal Solutions estimates a total economic loss for all the counties at about $277 million.

Dan Cravens, director of Bengal Solutions, said the team was excited to do the project because they feel it can really help. Bengal Solutions feels that the risk for an earthquake in the region is underestimated so they want to help bring awareness to counties about it.

Little said he was impressed by the students’ presentation. He said he learned some things and was surprised by some of the data he heard. He said it definitely leaves him with some policy concerns he’ll take back to the state to start looking at.

“I’ll start asking some questions of our state agencies,” Little said. “The Bureau of Emergency Services, they do a great job. But this is one where the state government, local government, cities and counties all need to work together and this is a good illustration of that need.”

In May, Bengal Solutions will be presenting their findings and suggestions for emergency preparedness steps to county commissioners and other representatives from those four counties.

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