Embedded image permalink

Sections of the Spaghetti Bowl that were closed for inspection after Friday’s earthquake were expected to reopen by 5 p.m., according to the Nevada Department of Transportation.

A 4.8-magnitude quake shook Las Vegas and surrounding areas Friday morning, and the state closed parts of the U.S. Highway 95 and Interstate 15 interchange for several hours to inspect ramps for possible structural damage, backing up traffic for miles.

The quake, which hit at 11:47 a.m., was centered about 23 miles south-southwest of Caliente, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The magnitude was originally reported as 5.4, but the official number was lowered twice Friday afternoon.

The ramp from southbound U.S. Route 95 to southbound Interstate 15 was closed about 12:20 p.m. Friday, NDOT said. But after inspection, the state determined the roadway was safe for travel.

“The joint damage was pre-existing. The tremblor simply dislodged the protective rubber encasing the bridge seam making it look much worse than it was in reality” and prompting an immediate shutdown of the ramps, NDOT engineer Mary Martini said in a release about 3:45 p.m.

An emergency contract was issued to repair the seam, but the ramps are structurally sound, Martini said. The Regional Transportation Commission said the ramp from southbound 95 to southbound I-15 had reopened by 4:15 p.m.

The southbound U.S. 95 and Martin Luther King Boulevard on-ramps to southbound I-15 were also closed as a precaution, the release said.

“The ramps make up the I-15/U.S. 95 interchange that sees 250,000 vehicles daily, making it the busiest stretch of roadway in the state with 25,000 lane changes an hour,” NDOT spokesman Tony Illia said. “However, those numbers are [considerably] higher during Memorial Day with another 198,000 anticipated drivers coming to Las Vegas over the long holiday weekend.”

NDOT said it was not doing a widespread inspection of the state’s bridges as a result of the earthquake because most bridges are designed and engineered to withstand small quakes.

“All of our bridge structures are designed to withstand rigorous wind and earthquake loading,” Illia said. “Nevada lies within an active seismic zone, which is something that we take into account during the project design and engineering phase.”

Meanwhile, the Highway Patrol was checking for possible damage at other major freeway interchanges, Trooper Loy Hixson said.

Illia said Nevada has some of the best-rated bridges in the country, according to a recent report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. Only 1.8 percent of Nevada bridges are classified as structurally deficient, which is the lowest in the country. The national average is 6 percent.

Officials at McCarran International Airport said there were no disruptions in operations and planes were routinely taking off and landing after the quake.

The Las Vegas Monorail, the High Roller at the Linq and rides at Circus Circus’ Adventuredome were unaffected by the earthquake, employees at each company said Friday afternoon.

‘DID YOU FEEL IT?’

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office had no immediate reports of any damage in or around Caliente.

Though the temblor was felt across Southern Nevada and as far away as Irvine, Calif., and Salt Lake City, “we barely felt a thing here,” said Deputy Dathan Lewis at the sheriff’s office in Pioche, about 20 miles north of Caliente.

A couple of items fell off the shelves of a Caliente grocery store, but there was no serious damage to the old building, Great Basin Foods manager Alyson Hammond said.

At Priest Elementary School, near Craig Road and Simmons Street in North Las Vegas, former Review-Journal reporter Francis McCabe said the shaking seemed to go on for 15 to 30 seconds and prompted a few people to venture outside the building.

The USGS reported four significant aftershocks, with magnitudes 3.8, 3.0, 3.4 and 2.5, between 12:05 and 12:58 p.m.

People across the Las Vegas area reported feeling the first earthquake, including in Henderson, North Las Vegas and Boulder City. People in three other states — Utah, Arizona and California — also reported it through the USGS website’s “Did You Feel It?” feature. A man who works in Boulder City reported that his office had “shifted/swayed.”

In downtown Las Vegas, District Judge David Barker was in the midst of a grand jury hearing on the 10th floor of the Regional Justice Center when the quake shook the valley. Barker, who has practiced law in Southern California, guessed that the earthquake measured about 5.5 on the Richter scale.

“You might want to check outside,” the judge said after the proceedings. “We may have had a gentle ride.”

A marshal on the top floor of the 17-story building at 200 Lewis Avenue reported a few nervous people, but picture frames remained on the walls.

A woman in southwest Mesquite said her husband was sitting in his reclining rocking chair, watching a movie, when the chair began to rock on its own. Betty Richer, 65, said the chair rocked for about 20 seconds after the start of the quake. The couch she was sitting on felt as if someone were moving it back and forth, she said.

Richer and her husband moved from Colorado to their home in Mesquite, near the CasaBlanca Resort golf course, about a year ago. The last experience she had with an earthquake was in the late 1990s when she felt tremors in Ridgway, Colorado, she said.

“But that was nothing like this,” Richer said. Lampshades were swaying and the home’s ceiling fans shook abnormally for about 30 seconds after the quake, she said, but the couple didn’t feel any aftershocks.