RENO — Scientists in Reno are using a machine that emits vibrations to map underground rock layers and earthquake faults.
The information will help identify the city’s most quake-prone areas, allowing better use of resources, such as funding to retrofit older buildings, the scientists said.
Experts with the University of Nevada, Reno and the U.S. Geological Survey are corroborating on the $1 million federal study.
Similar mappings were conducted in California and Utah.
The scientists said several earthquake faults are thought to exist in the downtown area.
“We just don’t know now where that big earthquake is going to affect Reno, where it’s going to start and where it’s going to end,” John Louie, a professor of geophysics at UNR’s seismological lab, told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
Bill Stephenson, a USGS geophysicist, said earthquake hazard maps are especially important given population growth in the seismically active West.
“It’s very important we are able to better characterize how (faults) will behave,” Stephenson said.
The mapping is being conducted with a “minivibe” truck equipped with a device that uses sound waves to reveal broken areas in rock layers, signifying earthquake faults.
“What we are hoping is we can identify these faults and help the community prepare,” Louie said.
A 2006 report by the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology said a magnitude 6.9 quake could cause extensive damage in the Reno area and kill hundreds of people.
Louie said the chance of a potentially disastrous quake hitting the Reno area in the next 30 years is 50 percent.