An earthquake centered near Howell was felt across much of Box Elder County on Tuesday morning, rattling buildings and jolting people to attention, but there were no reports of significant damage or injury in the area.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Utah Seismograph Stations, a magnitude 3.9 earthquake occurred at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday. It was centered just south of I-84 about 3 miles northeast of Howell.
USGS data suggest the temblor could have been felt as far away as Logan to the east, Brigham City to the south and Malad, Idaho, to the north.
Box Elder County Public Information Officer Mitch Zundel said county offices received many reports Tuesday from people who felt the quake but no reports of damage or injuries as a result.
Reports from around Bear River Valley suggested that many people who were indoors felt the disturbance, but most who were outdoors at the time didn’t, as is common with earthquakes registering below 5 on the Richter scale.
According to the USGS, a magnitude 3.9 quake can be “felt quite noticeably by persons indoors, especially on upper floors of buildings. Many people do not recognize it as an earthquake. Standing motor cars may rock slightly. Vibrations similar to the passing of a truck.”
In Howell, the community closest to the epicenter, Mayor Brad Hawkes said he received a call from his wife reporting that she had felt it, but he was outside and didn’t immediately recognize an earthquake.
“I heard a noise, but I thought it was just a jet breaking the sound barrier,” Hawkes said.
He said he hadn’t heard any reports of significant damage or injury in town, although he had heard of at least one residence where an item broke after falling from a shelf.
Tim Douglas, a farmer and rancher in the Howell area, said he was also outside at the time and didn’t feel any movement, but noticed some unusual activity.
“The pheasants started cackling and flying, and I could hear a shed rattling,” Douglas said.
Douglas’s father, Arthur, said an earthquake in 1975 resulted in a big increase in the flow from the Blue Creek spring, which is the main water supply for Howell and the surrounding farms and ranches. Tim Douglas said he was planning on monitoring the flow from the spring to determine if Tuesday’s event had any impact.
Howell resident Rauna Morris commented on a Facebook post seeking reports from the area that “it shook my house really good.”
“Stuff was knocked on the floor,” Morris wrote. “Scared me and my animals pretty good.”
Many students and employees at Bear River Middle School in Garland felt the quake and could hear windows rattling, Receptionist Sandra Thompson said.
The quake was felt at Bear River Valley Hospital in Tremonton, but there was nothing reported as a result that had any impact on the facility, said Chad Hunt, communications specialist at the hospital.
Responses on social media were varied. Several people from West Corinne to Thatcher reported strong shaking, as did some to the north in Plymouth, Portage, Snowville and across the Idaho border in Samaria, an unincorporated area southwest of Malad. One person reported feeling it in Petersboro near the Cache County line.
Several people at large employers in the area, including Northrop Grumman and Autoliv, reported feeling it while working.
Tuesday’s quake originated 4.1 miles underground. Several aftershocks were recorded later Tuesday, but none strong enough to be felt above ground.
University of Utah Seismograph Stations report a total of 45 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater have occurred within 16 miles of the epicenter of Tuesday’s event since 1962. The largest of those was a magnitude 4.5 on July 5, 1989, in the Blue Spring Hills northwest of the Northrop Grumman facilities.