USGS: New fault line runs through heart of Spokane

SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane Fault Line vo

Experts from the U.S. Geological Survey think they've found a new earthquake fault running right through the middle of Spokane,

Magnetic readings taken last summer show the fault extends from Spokane International Airport, north and east through Hillyard and ending near the North-South Freeway.

These are just preliminary findings but scientist do think this fault is responsible for a swarm of earthquakes in Spokane back in 2001. Now the USGS is trying to learn more about the fault's history to better predict if it's capable of bringing down bridges or just rattling our nerves.

Geologists have been trying to take Spokane's seismic pulse ever since that swarm of earthquakes back in 2001.

"The largest earthquake was a magnitude 4 on November 11th and a few days later in late November the whole thing stopped," Dr. Rick Blakely with the USGS said.

The quakes happened in the Corbin Park area where there are no known faults, but now, after using echo location on the ground and searching magnetic anomalies from the air, scientists think they've figured out where the fault lies.

"We think we have found evidence for a part of the Spokane fault that caused the earthquakes in 2001and the ground deformation of 2001," Blakely said.

The ground deformation took place right in the center of the city, with the west side of Spokane rising up over the east side of the city a half inch during the 2001 quakes.

"We're really concerned about what might happen in the future," Blakely said. "Was this a typical earthquake or is telling us there might be in the future, possibly a larger earthquake?"

The good news is Spokane's fault is relatively short, about 20 kilometers long and nothing like the bigger ones capable of leveling cities. Geologists say if more research shows the Spokane fault is capable of a magnitude 6 earthquake then it's time for action.

"My recommendation would be to have a campaign for people to strap down their water heaters, bolt their houses to the foundation. Have a plan, an evacuation plan, that type of thing," Blakely said.

The USGS hopes they can get funding to do more Spokane-based studies on the newly discovered fault. Emergency management officials, meanwhile, say they are not waiting for the final results and will launch an earthquake education preparedness plan in the near future.