- Associated Press - Saturday, May 23, 2015

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A magnitude-4.8 earthquake struck a rural area of southern Nevada on Friday, shaking buildings more than 100 miles away and shutting down a busy Las Vegas interchange as road-tripping travelers were descending on Sin City for Memorial Day weekend.

The U.S. Geological Survey revised an earlier report that pinned the magnitude of Friday’s earthquake at 5.4.

The temblor hit at 11:47 a.m. about 24 miles southwest of the small town of Caliente, and most of Southern Nevada felt it, along with parts of Utah including St. George and Cedar City, the USGS said.

People took to social media to report feeling the quake, but those already on the Las Vegas Strip appeared to take any shaking in stride, without any interruption to the gambling destination’s usual fun.

Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s 550-foot-tall High Roller observation wheel was still taking riders on a slow spin after officials said inspections revealed everything had gone according to the ride’s earthquake plan.

There were no immediate reports of damage or disruptions at any of the casino-hotels, but the Nevada Highway Patrol reported damage to one of the state’s busiest highway ramps, near downtown Las Vegas. The ramp from southbound U.S. 95 to Interstate 15, part of the so-called Spaghetti Bowl interchange, was shut down while crews examined a bridge joint that appeared to shift.

The ramp reopened shortly before 5 p.m. Friday after engineers determined it remained structurally sound.

“The tremblor simply dislodged the protective rubber encasing the bridge seam, making it look much worse than it was in reality,” Nevada Department of Transportation engineer Mary Martini said in an news release. “Meanwhile, the ramps remain structurally sound and safe for travel.”

Nevada is laced with faults and ranks third in the nation behind California and Alaska for earthquake activity.

Kara Rutkin, a publicist in southwest Las Vegas originally from California, said she was working in her second-story office when she felt Friday’s quake and five to 10 seconds of shaking. Some colleagues were new to the feeling.

“It’s not typical to have these out here. That’s why it took everyone a minute to process it,” Rutkin said. “I think it was just more an exciting thing to be part of it - as exciting as an earthquake can be.”

A magnitude-6.0 quake that struck near the northeast Nevada town of Wells in 2008 is the largest the state has experienced in more than 40 years, said Mickey Cassar, a technician at the Nevada Seismological Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Friday’s quake was shallower than most, about 3.8 kilometers (2.4 miles) below the surface, he said.

“The shallower an earthquake occurs, the more shaking there is and the farther away it is felt,” he said.

Several aftershocks, from magnitude 1.0 to 3.8, followed the larger quake.

Jacqueline Spute, administrative assistant at the Moapa Band of Paiutes reservation about 40 miles south of the quake’s epicenter, said the quake felt like “slow-motion rocking.”

Band officials were checking dams and infrastructure, but there were no immediate reports of damage, she said.

St. George Mayor Jon Pike said he was at work at a health insurance company, sitting at his desk, when he felt the quake.

“It wasn’t a violent shaking, but I definitely felt like someone was just kind of pushing the building like it was made out of rubber or something,” he said.


Associated Press writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas, Scott Sonner in Reno, Terry Tang in Phoenix and Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

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