Study: More Americans Threatened by Serious Quakes 

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A startling new report from the United States Geological Survey reveals that nearly half of Americans are exposed to potentially damaging earthquakes—nearly double previous estimates. The USGS points to population growth and better science to produce more accurate estimates of earthquake hazards.

The research was published this morning in the journal Earthquake Spectra. It concludes that more than 143 million Americans living in the 48 contiguous states are exposed to potentially damaging ground shaking. When residents of Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. Territories are added, the number rises to nearly half of all Americans.

The states with the highest populations exposed to strong earthquakes are: California, Washington, Utah, Tennessee, Oregon, South Carolina, Nevada, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois.

“The new exposure estimate is nearly double the previous 2006 estimate of 75 million Americans in 39 states," said William Leith, USGS senior science adviser and co-author of the study. “Populations have grown significantly in areas prone to earthquakes, and USGS scientists have improved data and methodologies that allow for more accurate estimates of earthquake hazards and ground shaking.”

Just this past January, a 4.9 magnitude tremor shook the Idaho community of Challis—the strongest in the area since 2005—and was felt as far away as Boise, Garden City and Mountain Home. The most powerful quake in Idaho history came in 1983 near Borah Peak, when a 6.9 earthquake resulted in two deaths and caused $12.5 million in damage to the Challis-Mackay area.
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