On Aug. 17, 1959 the earth around Yellowstone shook. PART III: '59 quake changed landscape, structures and more in Yellowstone National Park. “That was opened for the first time in decades,” said Quinn. But visitors kept coming - just from other entrances. The Air Force sent rescue helicopters to take out the seriously injured while a highway construction crew working to the east jumped into action.“And so, by late on the 18th [of August], there was a road, more or less, where cars could drive out,” said Owen.Fifteen year old John Owen was living an adventure. As we approach the 60th anniversary of the M7.3 Hebgen Lake earthquake, which occurred on August 17th, 1959 at 11:37 PM (MST), it seems appropriate to discuss the effects of the earthquake on the region, and what we might expect if a similar sized event happens in the near future. This temblor turned out to be a normal fault earthquake in which the lake-facing flank of the fault, which had been deemed “dormant”, dropped by almost 20 feet. It happened on August 18, 1959. August 17, 2019 (The earthquake of 17-Aug-1959) Very often it is not a single instant but a chain of events which turn a rare natural occurrence into a devastating natural disaster. The earthquake had a particular effect on Hebgen Lake, which had been created along the Madison River with the creation of the Hebgen Dam. The 1959 quake killed 28 people, most in the Madison River Canyon east of the lake. At 11:37 pm on August 17, 1959, a massive earthquake shook the Hebgen Lake area in the Madison Range in southwest Montana. At 11:37 p.m. a 7.3 magnitude earthquake devastated Hebgen Lake, Montana, located in Yellowstone’s northwestern region—in comparison, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti registered at a 7.0 magnitude. But while Hebgen Lake miraculously remained, the earthquake left plenty of geographic scars. The 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake measured a magnitude 7.2 on the Richter scale. “And almost cut his arm off,” Yetter recalled. We also spoke with experts who explained the science behind the quake and the damage that occurred. Some escaped and some suffered serious injuries. If you want to see a long-lasting effect of the quake in Yellowstone, head to the Fountain Paint Pots area, in the lower Geyser Basin, near Old Faithful and look for Clepsydra Geyser . “Anything that we build now, we make sure that it is up to great standards for seismic activity.”. Mid-August is usually the height of the tourist season in this area, so many campgrounds were full on the fateful night of August 17, 1959. Had heard about Quake Lake for a number of years. The slide – the third blow in the chain of events that fateful night - also wiped out the state highway to the west, effectively trapping the hundreds of campers and locals in the area of devastation. Tour Quake Lake Visitor Center. Gerry Yetter noticed the same thing where he lived on Duck Creek. “The fireplace here kind of twisted on its axis, so that two of the four flues were blocked,” said Yellowstone National Park Historian, Alicia Murphy. “The earthquake dropped the road about 12 to 15 feet straight (down), just a cliff,” said Yetter. It was near midnight on August 17 th, 1959 when an earthquake near the Madison River triggered a massive landslide.The slide moved at 100 mph and in less than 1 minute, over 80 million tons of rock crashed into the narrow canyon, blocking the Madison River and forming Earthquake Lake. “And he went over that, tipped the Cadillac upside down,” Yetter said. Subscribe for $1/mo. Part I: Survivors tell their stories when a mountain slid into the Madison River Canyon. Interesting and informative video of the 1959 earthquake with interviews from witnesses and officials involved. The water immediately began to accumulate behind the natural dam piled up by tons of slide debris. But, geologists were caught off guard on the evening of August 17, 1959, during the Hebgen Lake earthquake which would inevitably create a new lake on the Madison River following a landslide. Boulders the size of refrigerators shaken loose by the quake tumbled onto tents and trailers on the campground, immediately killing several visitors. - The Hebgen Lake earthquake is the largest recorded earthquake in Montana's history. At the other end of the lake, the dam held. You know, some day Old Faithful should actually stop. It soon inundated the cabins at Riverside Resorts. It caused the water in the 12000 acre lake to slosh back and forth for almost half a day. Hebgen Lake is a popular vacation spot near Yellowstone National Park. An inspection during the next few days showed that the dam was on the verge of collapse. These trees died after being inundated by the impounding of the Madison River. Fearing the Hebgen Dam would burst after the quake, the owner of the resort where the Owen family was staying told his guests to flee to nearby high ground. The next day, after people downstream of the dam, at Refuge Point had been rescued, a helicopter returned to pick up Brook and his dad. QUAKE LAKE, Mont. The scar of the slide is still visible on the mountain flank in the rear. The tourists simply went away. Yetter, who is now 87 years old, says he figured out a way to straddle the 12 to 20 foot cracks in the road with his car in order to get mail delivered to his neighbors for a week after the quake. She escaped with minor injuries, but a guest in a cabin they rented was spooked. But Brooke says there’s no comparison. “And I had to go down and check the dam every hour to see if it was still there,” he said. Photo: Horst Rademacher. As a relatively contained body of water, the tremor induced great waves to oscillate on its surface for 12 hours, in what is called a seiche, or the lake-bound equivalent of a tsunami. During the first few days after the earthquake, most springs began to clear, but several years passed before clearing was generally complete. Quake Lake, the 190-ft.-deep, 6-mile-long body of water officially known as Earthquake Lake, was created by a seismic event like a catastrophic scene out of a doomsday film. Categories:   Firehole Canyon Drive is a one-way scenic road today. The quake's epicenter was located along the north shore of Hebgen Lake almost directly beneath Cabin Creek campground. While no buildings were lost to the 1959 quake, it was an eye opener for the park.“I think that really did impact how we manage our historic structures, as far as making sure that we go back and retrofit these buildings to protect them for the future,” said Murphy. The Old Faithful Inn was full. That’s a big wave that runs from one end of the lake to the other.  |  The Hebgen Lake earthquake—the largest and deadliest earthquake recorded in Montana and the Intermountain West—occurred at 11:37 p.m. (local time) on Monday, August 17, 1959. Many people from West Yellowstone went to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help restore the river and repair roads and buildings. The area was filled in with 80 million tons of debris that came from a nearby mountain. A powerful earthquake that struck the Hebgen Lake area near Yellowstone National Park in 1959 also left a powerful mark on a 7-year-old boy who was asleep in his Idaho Falls home. And while a 7.3 magnitude quake brought down a mountain, brought a permanent change to travel into West Yellowstone and brought an abrupt end to the summer season of 1959, that very event is now another draw for tourists coming to West Yellowstone. Quake Lake (officially Earthquake Lake) is a lake in southwestern Montana in the United States.It was created after an earthquake struck on August 17, 1959, killing 28 people. The Hebgen Lake earthquake, as it came to be known, was a magnitude-7.5 event. Although the Army Corps of Engineers began to breach this dam a few weeks after the catastrophe, the outflow was kept to a minimum so as not to wreak havoc by producing a sudden flood downstream. He was not the least bit frightened.“It took me a while till I realized the significance of the disaster here at the slide, for me to calm down a little bit,” he said.Some, like Irene Bennett and her son, the only survivors from a family of six, took decades to get over the trauma. Afterward, 85 to 95 minutes. The old riverbed of the Madison is now underneath the waters of Quake Lake. “Certainly the whole structure kinda swayed and then in the dining room part of the chimney fell through the roof onto the floor. Every summer, hundreds of sportfishermen flock to the lake, stay overnight in the dozens of campgrounds or the many cabins and resorts which dot the lake's shores. They were, however, deemed to be inactive and to pose no danger to the reservoir. Several geologic fault lines parallel the north shore of the lake. - This Saturday night, at 11:35 p.m., will mark the 60th anniversary of the largest earthquake ever recorded in the Rocky Mountains. He radioed his report to another man south of Ennis who would then pass the message up the line. Fearing the Hebgen Dam would burst after the quake, the owner of the resort where the Owen family was staying told his guests to flee to nearby high ground.“And before long there was just a stream of cars coming in,” Owen said.250 people made their way to what was later named Refuge Point.“Right about dawn, then Dad said, ‘Here take the camera, go take some pictures,’” Owen said.The massive landslide pushed a wave of air in front of it at 100 miles an hour. By the time Union Pacific would make repairs, tourists were no longer arriving at West Yellowstone by train. The run-up of lake water on the shores drowned people who were sleeping in nearby cabins and huts. “There’s no question about it. This forced the park service to use a road that had been abandoned for years to get people out of the area. And the tourists would return to what is now the most popular entrance to Yellowstone National Park. If you go now, you will see it constantly erupting - it hasn’t stopped since Aug. 17, 1959.The ‘59 quake damaged the tracks and caused $30,000 - $40,000 of damage to the train company’s dining hall. Lake Hebgen (shown) is the lake above the newly formed Quake Lake. It would take weeks for some of the park’s roads to be reopened. “We couldn’t walk anywhere.”. Before the quake, eruption intervals were between 60 and 65 minutes. “We don’t believe that earthquakes can get much larger in this region,” said Mike Stickney, Director of Earthquake Studies for Montana Tech in Butte.Books and articles have been written about the tragedy. “And before long there was just a stream of cars coming in,” Owen said. Here is a picture of the scarp that appeared after the Hebgen Lake Earthquake: Credit: McGregor, K. Abston, Carl, U.S. Geological Survey. The slide, just downstream from here, sent debris and broken trees crashing right through the sleeping campers. Prior to that fateful night, it only erupted every two to three minutes. This standing water wave is known by its French name as a seiche and has been observed in many lakes and reservoirs. “The night of the quake was absolutely unbelievable,” said Cunningham. The shaking of the seismic waves mobilized the entire flank of a mountain on the south side of Madison River. The sudden downward shift of the ground also had a dangerous side effect – the second punch to hit Hebgen Lake that night. To the west the only road in was under a 250 foot pile of debris, while to the east the road had disappeared into Hebgen Lake.“In the middle of the morning, a plane flies over and a couple of smoke jumpers come out,” recalled Owen.“It was like rescue from the sky,” said Girvin.The jumpers brought medical supplies, food and a radio, leading to one of John Owen’s most memorable photos.“One guy’s taking a real careful step, but in the background, the mountain over here, there’s dust falling down. They feature photos taken by John Owen, who was 15 at the time of the quake. Seeley grew up in this area but was half a world away when the quake hit. Afterwards, 4.5 to five minutes. That 1989 California quake was about the same size as the Hebgen Quake. It hadn’t been open in decades, it was closed as soon as they had other roads opened and it would never open again.”. Today in Earthquake History The good news for tourists? At the same time, the slide completely blocked the flow of the Madison River. If you want to see a long-lasting effect of the quake in Yellowstone, head to the Fountain Paint Pots area, in the lower Geyser Basin, near Old Faithful and look for Clepsydra Geyser . It was very emotional, but it brought closure to her.”Under about 100 feet of water is the site of the old Rock Creek Campground. The good news for tourists? In fact, a beauty contest had entertained guests earlier in the evening. But the lake itself was heavily affected by the 7.3 quake. 28 people died in the event. Montana They’re still there, buried below a mountain of rubble.Owen did not suffer from traumatic stress. Her father had heard the fishing was good. It’s not far from where Cunningham spends his summers. Quake Lake. However, less than six miles downstream from the dam, another side effect of the earthquake caused a much more severe and immediate problem. Hebgen Lake stretches for approximately 14 miles. Even today, sixty years after the disaster struck, Earthquake Lake fills the valley, with leafless ghost trees sticking out of its waters. The family had driven up from Ogden, Utah, to spend part of summer 1959 in Yellowstone. “Park visitors were allowed to use it to escape the park, and many did, a small dirt road with a tiny steel bridge. This was the largest earthquake in recorded history in Montana. Survivors recount when the 7.5 magnitude quake struck, The night the world shook: Remembering the 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake, The night the world shook - Part II: Waves and tremors at Hebgen Lake threaten dam, The night the world shook - III: '59 quake changed landscape, structures and more in Yellowstone, The night the world shook: Quake ended a way of life in West Yellowstone. “Probably 35 years and they’ve never been back to this area,” Girvin said. (The earthquake of 17-Aug-1959). Today, Cunningham is host of the Cabin Creek Campground. “You know, it’s the human story to hear how some families were separated,” said Joanne Girvan, Director, Earthquake Lake Visitor Center .Stories like how three children survived but their parents were killed by a giant rock. He bought land along the river, built a summer home and returns every year. For others, escaping the park became an adventure all in itself. After dinner — which Thon said was wonderful, despite any discontent at the time — they cleaned up camp. Even the park’s iconic geyser felt the quake. “It was quite loud.”, “The noise from the lake,” said Cunningham. The dining hall fireplace was repaired immediately in 1959. Some can still be seen, where the water left them in place locals call the Ghost Village. It was the biggie.”. US 287 follows the lake and offers glimpses of the effects of the earthquake and landslide, and a visitor center is just off the road. 1959 Earthquake forms Quake Lake West of Yellowstone. He continued: “The largest earthquake ever recorded happened near Hebgen Lake in 1959, and it … The expert then sent a warning over history repeating itself. It happened at at 11:37 pm in and almost instantly, the shaking triggered a … “I’ve never even been in anything that was close to that.”. When the quake hit, rocks fell on the road, closing it. But it took 45 years to finish repairs on the the main fireplace.The building was evacuated immediately following the 7.3 quake. After some time in the park, they decided to camp in the Madison Canyon, downstream of Hebgen Lake. Old Faithful Inn survived. Most have something in common. “And we’d let that go and a half an hour later another aftershock would hit and he’d be down in the ditch on that side and I’d be down in the ditch on the other side.”. A powerful earthquake that struck the Hebgen Lake area near Yellowstone National Park in 1959 also left a powerful mark on a 7-year-old boy who was asleep in his Idaho Falls home. This 190 feet (58 m) deep and 6 miles (9.7 km) long lake was indeed created after an earthquake that struck on August 17, 1959, killing 28 people. And it hit hard. Photo: Horst Rademacher. “This is one of the largest landslides in North America.”It left the picturesque canyon a wasteland.“In the morning it was like we were in a new world,” said Joanne Gartland, who was there that night and survived. Fearing the Hebgen Dam would burst after the quake, the owner of the resort where the Owen family was staying told his guests to flee to nearby high ground. In 1959, it was the main road between Old Faithful and West Yellowstone. It was an aftershock,” he said.“The aftershocks would have been major earthquakes in their own right,” said Stickney.There were three aftershocks bigger than magnitude 6.5.“I’ve heard accounts the ground essentially didn’t stop trembling the night of the earthquake,” said Stickney. Trapped inside, the man broke a window to climb out. “There were cracks everywhere,” he said. It's severe ground shaking was the first blow, which struck the area. View of the Hebgen Lake Landslide which blocked the Madison River Canyon after the 1959 Yellowstone Earthquake. Old Faithful has always remained just that - faithful. It is a natural feature. The earthquake was caused by the extensional tectonics — stretching of the crust from east to west — that characterize the American West and are best expressed in the Basin and Range province. Magnitude measurements of the earthquake varied from 7.3 to 7.8 placing it as one of the strongest earthquakes in North America and the most severe in the Rocky Mountain area. It was preceded by a magnitude-6.3 foreshock, and followed by more than 350 aftershocks over the next four days. The massive 7.3 quake took 28 lives and changed the landscape just west of Yellowstone National Park along the Madison River.MTN News reached out to survivors of the event who remember that night and the days that followed. But that wasn’t all. But he still knew what happened that night in the Madison River Canyon. “A combination of the earthquake stopping it and the reduction in usage, they decided not to bring passengers in to West Yellowstone anymore,” said Clyde Seeley, owner of the Three Bears Lodge. It swept one man away, never to be found, and it ripped the clothing right off one survivor. “Believe it or not, I was in the Loma Prieta earthquake also,” said Cunningham. So glad finally went to see this area. The Golden Gate area was blocked to the north and the Gibbon Falls area to the south. The 1959 Yellowstone earthquake [1] also known as the Hebgen Lake earthquake [1] was a powerful earthquake that occurred on August 17, 1959 [1] at 11:37 pm (MST) [2] in southwestern Montana.The earthquake was registered at magnitude 7.3 – 7.5 [3] on the Richter scale. That’s natural for that to happen.”. ... erupting after the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake. Cunningham says it took about 17 minutes for the waves, some up to 20 feet tall, to sweep from one end of the 14 mile lake to the other. 250 people made their way to what was later named Refuge Point. “Well, of course, sure we get these shocks and people worry about that, but not too much, you know,” said Seeley. The havoc began shortly before midnight when visitors and locals alike were rudely awakened by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake.  |, August 17, 2019  Buildings were damaged, roads were destroyed and lives were lost. “The chimney to the left sheared off and fell on the porch next to her,” said Yetter. Eventually, John's father passed away, as did the wife of the resort owner. “We could hear the waves rumbling and could actually see some of the wave action because it was a full moon,” recalled Cunningham. In fact, a group of campers were trapped at the Indian Creek Campground for several days. 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