Reno Quakes Confound Experts

(CNN) -- Experts are mystified by a "swarm" of earthquakes hitting Reno, Nevada.

Quakes aren't uncommon there, but analysts just do not know what has caused 344 of them in the area in the past week, the strongest of which was magnitude 4.7.

The quakes have prompted schools to teach more emergency drills while seismologists examine the data for clues.

No one fault line has been identified as the culprit, and the pattern of the earthquakes also has scientists saying they are confused.

Typically, several small aftershocks follow a larger quake. In this case, several smaller temblors led to a larger one, which caused minor damage to shops and homes.

"Whether this last one is the final one of that building pattern is the question, and it will only be answered with time," said Tom Rennie, a seismic analyst with the Nevada Seismological Laboratory.

At Jesse Beck Elementary School in Reno, there have been three earthquake drills in the past month, prompted by the string of quakes that began in February.

"By the third drill, they pretty much have it down," Beck Principal Kristen Brown said with a laugh. "We make noises over the intercom, sort of a 'mock earthquake,' and had the kids do the duck, cover and hold method."

Aaron Kenneston, the Washoe County emergency manager, said reaction from the public has been mixed.

"There are a variety of reactions, just like there are a variety of personality types," Kenneston said. "It ranges from people who used to live in seismic zones like California, who don't think it's a big deal, to some people like the elderly or frail, who are very concerned."

Nevada is the third most active state for earthquakes after California and Alaska.

Because earthquakes cannot be predicted, Kenneston said, the most important thing he's focused on is public education.

"There's confidence that comes with preparation, and my goal is to get the populace familiar with how to protect themselves."

Kenneston advises the public to take precautions like moving heavier objects closer to the floor and securing bookcases and shelves. During an earthquake, people should take cover under a table, near an interior wall or in a doorframe.

At Beck Elementary, education is also a priority.

"One of our sixth-grade teachers has made earthquakes a unit of study for science. Now the kids know more about earthquakes than me," Brown said. "You definitely have to be prepared, and I feel we are."


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