S.E. Idaho teen thinks quakes caused sinkhole at family’s ranch

Submitted photo Riley Hayes is pictured in the sinkhole that formed at her family's ranch. She believes the hole was caused by recent earthquakes.

Submitted photo
Riley Hayes is pictured in the sinkhole that formed at her family’s ranch. She believes the hole was caused by recent earthquakes.

By Kendra Evensen, kevensen@journalnet.com 

A Southeast Idaho teen believes recent earthquakes have caused a sinkhole at her family’s ranch.

Riley Hayes, 15, says her family discovered the hole, which is 10 feet long, 8 feet wide and 5 feet deep, on Labor Day. It’s about 100 yards behind her house.

“It just showed up,” Hayes said, adding that the hole isn’t near any wells.

Four hundred cubic feet of dirt doesn’t normally disappear, she said. She thinks that the quakes that have rattled their ranch in the area of Georgetown, a community about 18 miles southeast of Soda Springs, for days are responsible.

Sometimes the quakes make it feel like a train is coming through their house, she said, and other times, they just shake the windows.

The quakes have been occurring primarily in the Caribou County area to the east, southeast and northeast of Soda Springs, and have been felt throughout Southeast Idaho and in Logan, Ogden and Salt Lake City in northern Utah.

The exact number of quakes that have occurred varies depending on the reporting organization and the factors they’re considering.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that as of early Tuesday evening, there had been 303 quakes since Sept. 2. The University of Utah Seismograph Stations puts that number at 242.

Both the USGS and university reported that the most powerful quake in the swarm was a 5.3 magnitude temblor that occurred on Sept. 2. Local experts believe the quakes that have followed have all been aftershocks, which they say can continue for weeks.

The USGS reported that there were four quakes on Tuesday, while the university said there had only been one in the Caribou County area by early that evening. That’s a significant drop from the 30-plus quakes that both organizations reported on the day before.

Caribou County Sheriff Kelly Wells says the initial quakes took people by surprise, but they have gotten used to them during the hundreds that have followed.

The quakes haven’t caused any significant damage. Some people have found cracks in the plaster on the walls of older homes in the area, Wells said. But they haven’t reported any structural or foundational issues.

In a Tectonic Summary about the recent quakes, USGS officials said, “It is fairly unlikely that a large and damaging earthquake will occur, but that likelihood will remain elevated as long as the aftershocks continue.”

Wells said he hasn’t seen anything that would suggest a larger quake is on the way, and he certainly hopes there won’t be one. Still, he thinks the quakes and natural disasters that have been occurring in other parts of the nation and world serve as a good reminder for people to be prepared for emergency situations.

He doesn’t think people need to run out and buy a bunch of supplies. But he is encouraging them to take inventory of what they already have and put the items in a place where they can access them in an emergency.

“So many people (here) camp and hunt and fish that they have survival gear,” Wells said.

While it’s impossible to prepare for every scenario, Wells believes that having emergency supplies can help give people peace of mind.

He recommends they visit the website www.ready.gov/build-a-kit to get started.