Quake gives area a shake

By Kelly Ducote, The Observer December 23, 2013 11:06 am

Brooke DeYoung thought concern over earthquakes would end when she moved from California back to La Grande.

That’s why she thought she might be imagining things when she was visiting with a friend at her kitchen table and felt, however subtly, that the ground was not stable Sunday night.

“I just blew it off because I’m not in California anymore,” she said.

When she got on Facebook later Sunday evening, she realized she was right, though. 

A magnitude-3 earthquake occurred just before 7 p.m., six miles northwest of La Grande — in the Upper Perry area — according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the USGS’s National Earthquake Information Center, said the epicenter was a little over 6 miles west northwest of La Grande. The depth of the quake was 5.4 miles.

“Every earthquake is unique. How people feel it depends a lot on the depth of the earthquake,” Caruso said. 

USGS received reports that the quake was felt in La Grande, though not very strongly, Caruso said.

DeYoung described the sensation as a wave.

“It’s not like a shaking,” she said. “I felt like I was on wobbly ground.”

And just as soon as she felt it, it was over. 

“I think because of being (in California) and always being on guard, it becomes an extra sense you have,” DeYoung said. “Maybe it’s because I was just sitting. I wasn’t distracted by anything else.”

Calls to the Union County Sheriff’s Office and Union County commissioners were not returned by press time. It is not believed that there was any damage as a result of the minor quake.

The National Earthquake Information Center’s Caruso said Oregon has earthquakes, but not very often.

“There’s a potential for large earthquakes, especially on the West coast,” he said. “Eastern Oregon is less earthquake prone than Western Oregon.”

One of the few earthquakes to seriously jolt Union County struck early in its history on Dec. 14, 1870.

The earthquake hit at 10 p.m. and lasted between 10 seconds and one minute. Terrified residents, were bolted out of their slumber. 

“One individual imagined his bed was haunted from its involuntarily being moved in various directions and quite a number imagined that their senses were leaving them,’’ the old Mountain Sentinel of Union reported in its Dec. 21, 1870, edition.

At Oro Dell people were awakened from sound sleep and frightened by the rattling of dishes and furniture. Oro Dell was an early settlement in the Fox Hill area.

The quake gained momentum as it progressed, according to a story in the Dec. 18, 1870, of the Bedrock Democrat, a Baker City weekly that carried an article on the seismic event written by a La Grande correspondent. 

The writer said the quake started with “short vibrations’’ that became heavier and more perceptible. 

“We must conclude that the motion which was felt by our citizens was nothing less than an earthquake,’’ wrote the correspondent, identified only as L.H.W.

The writer described the quake’s vibrations as gentle and noted that there was no rumbling sound. 

The 1870 quake was also felt in Pendleton and Walla Walla, Wash.

According to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, an organization that tracks earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Washington and Oregon, shows two other earthquakes previously registered. One was June 6, 1984, when a 3.1 magnitude earthquake occurred southwest of La Grande. A 3.5 magnitude quake registered July 14, 1971, south of La Grande, according to the PNSN.

Contact Kelly Ducote at 541-786-4230 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Kelly on Twitter @lgoDucote.