Historic Earthquakes

Dixie Valley - Fairview Peak area, Nevada
1954 12 16 11:07 UTC
Magnitude 7.1

1954 12 16 11:11 UTC
Magnitude 6.8

Note: Because damage from the two earthquakes cannot be separated, they are treated as one event.

The population was sparse in the epicentral region of this earthquake, and few man-made structures existed. Damage to structures, therefore, was minor despite the geologic and seismographic evidence of a major earthquake.

The earthquake was accompanied by offsets along many faults in the four main zones of a north-trending belt 96 kilometers long by 32 kilometers wide. Minor geologic effects included changes in the flow of springs and wells, formation of craters and water fountains, landslips and landslides, mudflows, and rockfalls.

The fault displacements mainly were along normal faults in the following areas: (1) west of Dixie Valley, (2) southeast of Dixie Valley, (3) east of Fairview Peak, and (4) east of Stingaree Valley. The maximum strike-slip component was 3.6 meters or right-lateral movement at Fairview Peak, and the maximum vertical-slip component was 3.6 meters at Bell Flat.

Heacy furniture was displaced at Frenchman Station, about 11 kilometers west of major surface faulting, but damage to buildings was negligible. Differential settlement of about 10 centimeters that occurred under a wood-frame store resulted in minor cracking of the building. Damage at Fallon, about 48 kilometers west of the nearest major surface break, was limited to a few toppled chimneys. Hundreds of aftershocks occurred. The main earthquake also was felt in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Utah.

damage photo
Fault scarp in the Fairview Peak area, Nevada, formed by the December 16, 1954, earthquake. (Photograph from the National Geophysical Data Center.)

Abridged from Seismicity of the United States, 1568-1989 (Revised), by Carl W. Stover and Jerry L. Coffman, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1527, United States Government Printing Office, Washington: 1993.