WELLS, Nev. The shaking didn't end when the sun went down Thursday in Wells. Just after 9 p.m. another temblor could be felt at the Motel 6 where, in a city that prides itself on its "abundant" fresh and geothermal water, guests were warned not to drink the water.
And then it snowed. Then it shook, at least the building at Motel 6, again and again, just before 2:30 a.m. and shortly after 3 a.m., then another after that and another. Apparently there was a 3.2 magnitude temblor in the Wells area at 11:33 p.m., which some people obviously were able to sleep through.
The continued seismic activity punctuated over and over an emotional day when tensions were high as one aftershock after another kept people on edge while they tried to clean up from the 6.0 earthquake that happened just after 6 a.m. Thursday. At least four larger events after the initial quake registered 4.0, 3.7, 3.9 and 4.6 magnitude during the day.
The print edition of the Elko Daily Free Press in boxes by late Thursday said it all in bold letters on the front page, "Quake rocks Wells," with multiple articles and photos throughout the paper describing a place the Elko County Commission declared to be in a state of emergency.
Friday was expected to bring questions from residents with homes more heavily damaged by the quake, wondering about state and federal assistance in a place where people make their money from ranching, gaming, trucking, mining and tourism.
The big question: earthquake insurance. Many here don't have it. And without it people living in Wells are for now relying on help from neighbors, church groups and agencies like the Red Cross for cleaning up, fixing fallen chimneys and cracked walls or foundations and replacing damaged or broken items.
Signs abound showing that the community is pulling together. Thursday night, for example, David Ashby's family was seen bringing spaghetti and homemade pies into the Wells Elementary School to help feed hundreds who had gathered there. During the big quake Ashby received a gash to his head while trying to reach his daughters in their bedroom, in a house that seemed like it was slowly exploding inside.
The U.S. Geological Survey's Web site states that the earthquake in Wells was the strongest since 1959 in northern Nevada, a state that ranks as one of the most seismically active in the country. USGS officials put the epicenter of Thursday's temblor at about 11 miles east/southeast of Wells. A USGS map shows the areas surrounding Wells, with brown squiggly lines drawn to indicate a fault zone, or the Independence Valley fault system.
More than 20 quakes in the Wells area alone were plotted on the same USGS map late Thursday, with more recorded throughout Nevada Thursday and over the past week nothing, however, compared to a USGS map of California, with dozens of colored splotches indicating seismic activity in recent days.
Throughout what was for some a sleepless night Thursday and into Friday, the Wells area continued to rattle, racking up a mass of 26 overlapping blue squares, or earthquakes, on a USGS map by 3:45 a.m., with the largest square being the 6.0 Thursday.
A magazine put out by the Wells Chamber of Commerce contains a description on Page 4 of Old Town Wells with its buildings that date back to the 1800s "and still stand virtually unchanged." Not any more.
Most of the touted walking tour of historic Wells takes the curious along Front Street, consisting of numerous old buildings, several that are or were saloons or places to stay. They were nearly all damaged, some severely.
At the Motel 6 just before 7 a.m. a layer of snow blanketed cars in the parking lot. A man behind the counter the previous evening told people checking in at the motel that before Thursday no one knew about Wells.They do now.
E-mail: [email protected]