Are there likely natural disaster risks in Idaho? If so, what are they and how can students better prepare for them?

On June 5, 1976, the Teton Dam in southeastern Idaho went through a catastrophic failure.

Jessica Foster, a freshman majoring in interdisciplinary studies, grew up in Idaho Falls, Idaho, all of her life.

“When the Teton Dam broke, my dad was right outside of Rigby,” Foster said. “I grew up hearing about that. A lot of our family friends lost their crops from it.”

Foster said she is used to the natural disaster risks in the surrounding area because she grew up here.

“I grew up here, so Yellowstone has never really freaked me out,” Foster said. I go to visit at least twice a year and they take a lot of precautions for it.”

Coreen Hurst, a faculty member in the Department of Geology, shared her thoughts on potential risks in the area and those that are most likely to occur.

“Several disasters are possible,” Hurst said. Flooding is the most likely. We are close to the Snake River and different tributaries to the Snake River. This past spring there were several close calls for flooding.”

Hurst said that another risk in this area are earthquakes. The area is being monitored currently.

“There are some fault lines in this area and the surrounding area that could potentially have an earthquake occur on them,” Hurst said. “If an earthquake were to occur on the Teton fault line, this area would be affected by it. The University of Utah along with Idaho State monitors this whole area with seismographs.”

She said that another risk in this area are volcanic eruptions.

“R Mountain is a tuff cone volcano,” Hurst said. “Tuff cones usually only erupt one time. R Mountain erupted and is no longer active, but there is a possibility of a new one appearing next to it or around it.”

Anywhere in the world has potential natural disasters that could occur.

“Anywhere that you live is going to have risks,” Hurst said. “However, BYU-Idaho is really good about being a place of refuge.”

Hurst said there is information on the school website about how to prepare for disasters and emergency situations. This webpage is called the Emergency Action Plan.

“They have a list of all of the types of disasters that could occur,” Hurst said.

Kelsey Echols, a sophomore studying psychology, said that flood waters are a potential risk in this area.

“I grew up in the midwest so I’m used to tornadoes and earthquakes,” Echols said. “Maybe how high the flood waters are is a risk. The undercurrent especially in the Snake River is dangerous.”

Echols said what she would to get to higher ground in case of a flood emergency.

Foster said that being prepared is an essential aspect of knowing what to do in a disaster situation.

“Knowing what to do and who to contact in an emergency can better prepare us,” Foster said.

Hurst said that there are several things included in the university Emergency Action Plan that could benefit and prepare us for a disaster.

“Have things that are important in a safe place where they are easy to grab when leaving,” Hurst said.