earthquake quake

There’s been a whole lotta shakin’ going on near Manhattan this summer, and especially so over the past week.

A long string of perceptible earthquakes rattled the town throughout last weekend, then culminated in the strongest temblor to date in the 10-month series of activity – a magnitude 4.1, which struck at 10:27 p.m. Monday, and was followed by a 2.9 the next day shortly after noon.

Seismic events are nothing new in the western Gallatin Valley, as the Belgrade News recounted last month in a historical piece about the 6.7 magnitude quake that caused considerable damage to Manhattan and Three Forks in 1925. However, times have changed since then; while Mother Nature continues to hand out surprises, the methods by which neighbors communicate with each other about them is significantly different than it used to be.

Instead of swapping tales over the back yard fence, modern folk turn to technology to share information, observations and even earthquake jokes via social media and on the Internet.

For months, Manhattanites have been posting frequently about the unsteadiness beneath their feet, and last weekend’s spate of tremors prompted a burst of comments the “Manhattan Montana” public Facebook page.

“Another one! Wowzer,” exclaimed one entry last Saturday.

The next day, a more informative post declared, “We’ve had 13 earthquakes today in Manhattan, Montana with a magnitude of 1.0 or more. The largest were the 2 that were 3.5. The last was 40 minutes ago and it was a 3.0. Anyone else starting to get a little freaked out?”

“Definitely a little unnerving,” answered one respondent.

“Eh. Whatever happens, we ain’t going to be able to do anything about it,” replied another, who apparently favors adopting a more fatalistic outlook.

While rumblings never seemed to slow down on the Manhattan page throughout August’s first weekend, neither did activity underground. On Monday night, when the 4.1 struck northwest of Manhattan, people all over the region turned to the U.S. Geological Survey’s “Did You Feel It” page to report the degree of shaking they felt, and tell about what happened where they were.

 “Laying in bed when the house shook pretty bad along with a loud rumble and bang,” reported one resident of Manhattan, who lives about 2½ miles from the epicenter, according to the USGS site.

“Our dog was not impressed,” the entry concluded.

In Bozeman, 19 miles from the epicenter, a resident reported that the temblor “Woke me up at 10:25 p.m. Apt shook for approx 5 seconds. Reminded me of when I lived back east near a cement quarry and they would blast at the quarry and the house would shake.”

And in south Bozeman, another writer reported that “At first it sounded/felt like a big truck rattling by, but quickly became obvious this was lasting 

longer with more noise from more directions … definite shaking/movement that lasted long enough nothing but earthquake could explain it.”

Close to the epicenter, a number of folks reported that the quake knocked items off of shelves. Most wrote not only about what they felt, but what they heard.

“Sounded like a bomb went off,” wrote one Manhattanite, who reported strong shaking. “Shook things off of shelves. Tremors felt for about 30 minutes after.”

“Couple books and 1 ceramic pitcher fell from shelf,” reported another in Manhattan.

“Plate fell off shelf, hit small dish breaking it, some small items fell out of cupboards,” reported a third who felt “strong” shaking. 

Almost all the reports noted that Monday’s was a noisy tremor, described variously as “a low noise” and “deep rumble,” “very loud like a train passing,” or like thunder.

“Enjoying a quiet night when it sounded like a really heavy object was dropped in our living room and then the shaking started,” reported a Churchill resident.

Even before Monday’s 4.1, enough nerves were rattled that some were seeking pragmatic advice via social media.

“I wonder how much earthquake insurance is?” queried a Manhattanite on the Facebook group.

She didn’t have to wait long for a detailed answer from a neighbor, who concluded a recommendation for an insurance agency and a price quote with, “I got it!”