Remembering Yellowstone’s 1959 Hebgen Lake 7.3 Killer Earthquake
Monday, August 17 will mark the 61st anniversary of the largest known earthquake that's ever hit Yellowstone. The magnitude 7.3 quake killed 28 and there are still remains in the park today showing what happened that day.
According to Wikipedia, the quake hit at 11:37 pm the night of August 17, 1959. The timing of the quake is part of what made it a killer. It caused a massive rock slide that brought down huge boulders onto a campground that sheltered many sleeping campers. In total, 50 million cubits of rock came down in that slide. Originally, the quake was declared a 7.5 magnitude shaker, but that was later revised to a 7.3. Some remember it as a 7.2. The number doesn't matter as much as the damage it caused.
The landslide blocked part of the Madison River and created what is now known as Quake Lake.
There are markers in Yellowstone which tell the story of a house on the edge of Hebgen Lake which collapsed into the water as a result of the quake. This diver found some remnants of the house still in Hebgen including a shoe, jar and an old cooking pot.
According to Wikipedia, the 1959 Yellowstone quake caused $11 million in damage which would add up to nearly $100 million of our money today.
The USGS remembered the 1959 Yellowstone quake with a simple description:
The Hebgen Lake earthquake continues to be the largest earthquake to occur in the U.S. Intermountain West in historic times.
Could a monster quake like this strike Yellowstone again? Yellowstone Geology shared an article that estimates that due to heat softening the bedrock, we're not likely to see a 7.3 earthquake again, but a 6.5 is definitely possible.
It's good to remember the 28 lives that were lost that fateful August night in 1959 and pray we don't have to deal with a tragedy like this again anytime soon.