Series of quakes takes toll on rattled residents of Reno

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Associated Press Writer

RENO, Nev. (AP) -- Dozens of minor earthquakes shook Reno on Sunday as a series of temblors entered its third month and prompted some frazzled residents to leave their homes.

More than 150 aftershocks have been recorded on the western edge of northern Nevada's largest city after a magnitude-4.7 quake hit Friday night, the strongest quake in a sequence that began Feb. 28. There were no reports of injuries or widespread damage.

Scientists have urged residents to prepare for worse, saying the recent activity is unusual because the quakes started out small and continue to build in strength.

After being awakened as many as four times a night by quakes, retiree Sandra Petty decided to spend nights 10 miles away at the Sparks home of her daughter, Stefanie McCaffrey.

"The quakes have sent her emotions and nerves into a tailspin," McCaffrey said Sunday. "She was exhausted, and she couldn't relax or unwind. She just needed to get away so she could have a good night's sleep."

Keith Phillips said he's going to live somewhere else, possibly with his children, until the activity settles down. He lives about a block from the epicenter of Friday night's quake, which cracked walls in his house and pushed one of his garages off its foundation.

"I grew up in the Bay Area and went through some major quakes down there," Phillips told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "Since we're right on top of the epicenter, I've never felt anything like this."

The strongest aftershock Sunday measured 3 and was recorded shortly before 11 a.m.

Three other quakes larger than magnitude 3 have struck areas scattered hundreds of miles apart across northern Nevada since Friday night's 4.7 quake in Reno.

The quakes around Reno began a week after a magnitude 6 one in the northern Nevada town of Wells, near the Utah border. The Feb. 21 quake has been followed by hundreds of aftershocks.

Scientists said they're unsure whether the seismic activity across the state, unusual for its basin-and-range topography, is related.

"Not enough is known about the faults and their history and what their role is," said Ken Smith of the seismological laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno.

The Reno temblors have prompted a flood of calls from homeowners to insurers about quake insurance.

MetLife placed a 30-day moratorium on new coverage after a 4.2 quake jolted Reno on Thursday. Until then, the strongest quake in the sequence had been 3.6 on April 16.

Other insurers were expected to follow suit.

"It probably will be extended, unfortunately, because of the one (Friday) night," MetLife agent Charlotte Eckmeyer said, adding that quake coverage just about doubles premiums.

Nevada is the third most seismically active state in the nation behind California and Alaska. Reno's last major quake measured 6.1 on April 24, 1914.