Southern Colorado residents assessed damage to homes and businesses Wednesday from a magnitude-5.3 quake, the state’s biggest since 1967, as officials warned that minor aftershocks were expected for weeks.
In the former coal town of Valdez, Dean Moltrer, co-owner of Purgatoire Valley Construction, said he wasn’t waiting for the Las Animas County building inspector to document any wrecks. He found severe damage to one structure and cracks in walls and foundations of other buildings.
“We’ve gone through five other buildings. Some had minor damage,” Moltrer said.
Valdez, a town of about 100 people 15 miles west of Trinidad, and nearby Segundo were among the hardest hit by Monday night’s quake. The temblor was felt in a wide area of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico and damaged chimneys, cracked walls and knocked items off shelves. No one was hurt.
Las Animas County’s part-time building inspector, Joe Richards, said he has inspected homes and businesses in Segundo and Valdez, near the epicenter, and found one house where the front was severed from the back. The building is still habitable but will have to be fixed, he said.
Richards said he also found cracked walls, damaged chimneys and cracked foundations in other structures, but “we haven’t condemned any buildings yet.”
Richards said response has been slow because the county recently let go of two building inspectors to save money and limited his hours, but he expects to get the inspections done soon if people call to report damage.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Earthquake Information Center in Golden recorded at least 13 minor aftershocks, the largest at magnitude 3.9. A foreshock on Monday measured magnitude 4.6.
Weaker and less frequent aftershocks can be expected in coming weeks, said geophysicist Amy Vaughn.
Vaughan said about 1,700 people contacted the USGS on its website to report they felt the quake. More than 122,000 did the same to report Tuesday’s magnitude-5.8 quake in Virginia.
Parts of southern Colorado occasionally experience minor earthquake swarms that last days or weeks. The USGS said eight quakes of magnitude-4.0 or greater have occurred in the area affected by Monday’s quake since August 2001.
The earthquake was Colorado’s largest since a magnitude-5.3 temblor struck Denver’s northern suburbs in 1967.
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