Does Las Vegas Have Earthquakes?


Las Vegas doesn’t get a whole lot of natural disasters, but it does get a few. Whether you’re moving to Las Vegas or simply visiting, it’s certainly something you want to consider. So that begs the question, does Las Vegas have earthquakes?

Nevada is the third most seismically active state in the country, so Las Vegas is prone to earthquakes. However, most of these earthquakes are so small that the average person doesn’t even notice them.

There are fault lines that run directly through Las Vegas, so seismic activity isn’t uncommon. But are the earthquakes large enough to be a concern when traveling to Las Vegas? Let’s explore the topic.

Earthquake in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Related Article: What Does Las Vegas Mean? (Meaning & Origins)

How Often do Earthquakes Happen in Las Vegas?

Nevada is the state with the third most earthquakes, behind only California and Alaska. The entire state gets thousands of microquakes every year, but very few major earthquakes. Las Vegas only experiences a major quake once every 10 to 20 years.

With that being said, Las Vegas can still feel the effects of earthquakes that happen in California. The geography of Las Vegas Valley is comparable to a basin, so the shockwaves of nearby quakes are sometimes amplified. Fortunately, this doesn’t cause as much damage as the epicenter of the earthquake.

Is Vegas on a Fault Line?

There are several fault lines that run underneath the city, although many of them aren’t active. Geologists only consider a fault to be active if it has produced an earthquake or shows signs of seismic activity within the past 10,000 years.

Here are a few of the more prominent fault lines in Las Vegas:

  • West Charleston Fault (Summerland)
  • Decatur Fault (on Decatur Boulevard)
  • French Mountain Fault
  • Cashman Fault (near downtown Las Vegas)
  • Valley View Fault (west of downtown)
  • Whitney Mesa Fault (Henderson)

What are the Chances of Major Earthquakes Hitting Las Vegas?

While Nevada is located near major fault lines, the likelihood of a major earthquake hitting Las Vegas in the near future is slim. Scientists at UNLV say there will probably be one within the next 10,000 years, but that’s a pretty large window. Earthquakes in Nevada generally score very low on the Richter scale.

What to do during an Earthquake?

If there is an earthquake, there are a few steps that you’re going to want to take to protect yourself.

  • Drop onto your hands and knees – this prevents you from getting thrown around.
  • Cover your head and neck with one arm – you can also crawl under a nearby desk or table.
  • Hold on until the shaking stops – stay away from windows.

It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security if you’ve experienced other earthquakes in the past. However, major quakes produce much more devastating effects than smaller ones. Big earthquakes are exponentially more violent and cause more damage.

If you’re out in the open, it’s much more likely that objects will fall on you. It’s always best to air on the side of caution and follow the correct protocol.

Can Buildings in Las Vegas Withstand an Earthquake?

For the most part, modern buildings in Vegas have been constructed with earthquakes in mind. Las Vegas has been preparing for a major Earthquake for over 20 years. The city updated its building codes in the 1900s to increase safety during potential earthquakes.

Any structure that has been built within the past 20 years is required to follow these safety codes. That means that the majority of the hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip are largely earthquake-proof. Many of these hotels even exceed the required building codes.

When Was the Last Earthquake in Las Vegas?

The last major earthquake occurred in 1992. It was part of a regional sequence of earthquakes that started in Landers, California. The day after the Landers earthquake (which measured 7.3 on the Richter scale), there was a magnitude 5.7 earthquake on Little Skull Mountain, near Yucca Mountain.

The effects of that earthquake were felt in Las Vegas, Nevada. Fortunately, there are were no fatalities, and the damage was limited.

There was also an earthquake in July of 2019, however, it originated in California. The tremors of the 7.1 magnitude quake were felt in Las Vegas a hundred miles away. There was no significant damage reported, but you could feel the ground shake. This was the only earthquake that I’ve experienced while living in Las Vegas.

Largest Earthquakes in Nevada History

Since 1840 Nevada has had 23 earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater. However, many of the earliest recorded quakes are anecdotal, so there isn’t too much accurate information about them.

Nevada’s largest earthquake took place on October 2, 1915, near the city of Winnemucca. It was a 7.3 magnitude seismic event that left a 35-mile long scar across the landscape. The ground even raised 19 feet in some areas.

Also See: Does Las Vegas Have Tornadoes?

Conclusion

While Nevada is the 3rd most seismically active state in the country, most of the earthquakes in the area are too small to be felt. Large earthquakes are can occur but are extremely rare in Las Vegas. It isn’t something that you should worry about on your next Vegas trip.

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