Home News ‘Ground trembling’ Air Force scrambled to Yellowstone after terrifying 7.3 magnitude quake

‘Ground trembling’ Air Force scrambled to Yellowstone after terrifying 7.3 magnitude quake


The first US national park is home to the Yellowstone caldera – a supervolcano that gets its name due to its capability to cause untold devastation in the event of an eruption. Located below the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, the area is constantly monitored by the USGS (United States Geological Survey) for signs that such an eruption is on its way. But, 61-years ago, visitors and scientists alike were caught off-guard during the Hebgen Lake earthquake which would inevitably create a new lake on the Madison River following a landslide.

The 7.3 magnitude quake claimed the lives of 28 people and caused more than £200million worth of damage, and the survivor stories are just as sobering.

John Owen was 15 at the time of the event and was in a vacation cabin with his family that night, but he still remembers being jolted awake.

He said: “I was thrown off the couch onto the floor.”

Fearing the Hebgen Dam would burst after the quake, the owner of the resort where the Owen family was staying told his guests to flee to nearby high ground.

Mr Owen added: “And before long there was just a stream of cars coming in.”

More than 250 people made their way to what was later named Refuge Point.

The massive landslide pushed a wave of air in front of it at 100mph, sweeping people away and ripping the clothes off others.

It was not until the next day the true force of the event would become known.

Mr Owen added: “In the middle of the morning, a plane flew over and a couple of smokejumpers came out.”

READ MORE: Yellowstone volcano’s ‘devastating’ threat as scientist warns of ‘explosive 40km eruption’

“I’ve heard accounts the ground essentially didn’t stop trembling the night of the earthquake.”

The Air Force sent rescue helicopters to take out the seriously injured while a highway construction crew working to the east jumped into action.

Mr Owen added: “And so, by late on August 18, there was a road, more or less, where cars could drive out.

“It took me a while till I realised the significance of the disaster at the slide, for me to calm down a little bit.”

After only three weeks the damned river created a lake more than 50 metres deep which now covers an area five miles long and a third of a mile wide.

Today, tourists to the area can stop by the Earthquake Lake Visitor Centre, which is situated 27 miles north of West Yellowstone to relive the horrors from more than half a century ago.


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