WESTERN TREASURE VALLEY - On March 31 at 5:52 p.m. , an earthquake was felt in the Western Treasure Valley. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 6.5 quake originated 44 miles west of Challis or about 90 miles as the bird flies from Payette County.
As of April 7, the only damage reported to the newspaper came from Payette County Sheriff’s Lt. Andy Creech. He reports that the Payette County Courthouse complex appears to have suffered some damage from the quake.
“We had an engineer out last Friday,” said Creech via email. “Some of the cracks appear to be new. Others appear to have lengthened. [HECO Engineers] will be monitoring the cracks to see if there are any changes to them.”
Idaho Department of Lands issued a news release the day following the earthquake to reassure citizens that all oil and gas wells in Payette County had no initial problems and that further inspections were planned to be taking place.
However, police chiefs and sheriffs departments on both sides of the Snake River offer these bits of advice to help residents be prepared for the next shakeup:
In Payette, Police Chief John Plaza said his team have plans in place for such a shakeup.
“We use our Emergency Response Guide for the county that has guidelines for responses to many things, including earthquakes.”
Creech reminds residents not to leave their safety to chance.
“If any citizens have concerns about the integrity of their home, business or other buildings, they should consult with a structural engineer,” he said.
Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero is asking his residents to read up on their responsibility.
“We have referred the public to the FEMA website which has an abundance of earthquake preparedness literature and info,” he said.
What to do if you notice structural damage
Payette County Assessor Mark Harvey says he has not had any reports of structural damage or inquiries from property owners about what to do for any.
“As I understand at this point, there has been no severe damage reported in the county as of yet,” he says.
In the event someone did have damage, Harvey suggested people do just what was done at the county facilities: “We are strongly suggesting, if you think you have property damage, get a civil engineer involved.”
“If you notice rocks have fallen off the front of a house, or things that are more serious, a structural engineer would be the first to say whether it was a structural damage incident or settling of the ground,” he says.
In the event there is damage, the Assessor’s Office would ultimately be involved to help with casualty loss, such as loss of property, like buildings falling down. If it was serious enough to require reconstruction, Harvey says, the owner could claim a casualty loss.
Typically the damage would also need to be reported to a police department or sheriff’s office so they can see the damage, Harvey said. That entity would then report it to Creech, who is also the county’s emergency coordinator, “then we would offer assistance of casualty loss.”
This could ultimately involve a possible reduction on property tax, Harvey explained, adding though that it would be “an offset, not a forgiveness.”
“It’s not over yet,” he said. “I’m sure people are still investigating.”
HECO Engineers, the firm which inspected the Payette County Courthouse and Jail facilities issued a news release last week stating the importance of getting an assessment as soon as possible and documenting the damage for insurance companies.
“Assessments are necessary as building codes and designs are based on life safety during an earthquake, and there is no guarantee that the structure will be functional afterward,” states the release.
There are usually two types of evaluations conducted during a structural assessment, according to the firm. The first is a visual inspection of the exterior which should be performed within 24 hours, and if that looks safe, the engineer will continue the inspection inside the structure.
The second type of evaluation is a detailed structural evaluation which takes place several days later and typically entails a day or two to perform depending on the size and type of building, according to the engineering firm.
What to do in event of another earthquake
Creech reminds the public to take these measures during an earthquake:
• If you are in a vehicle, pull over and stop. Set your parking brake.
• If you are in bed, turn face down and cover your head and neck with a pillow.
• If you are outdoors, stay outdoors away from buildings.
• Do not get in a doorway.
• Do not run outside.
He also reminds the public to visit https://www.ready.gov/earthquakes to learn more.
“The Payette County Emergency Coordination Center is at a Level II and monitoring the COVID-19 as well as the events following last nights earthquake,” Creech added.