earthquakes | KUOW News and Information

earthquakes

A scene from a simulation by the Washington State Department of Transportation of what could happen if a massive earthquake hits the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
YouTube/WSDOT

Emily Fox talks with Lt. Col. Clayton Braun about Cascadia Rising, a four-day exercise to test the emergency response to a 9.0 magnitude earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Braun is a member of the Washington State National Guard.

Kji Kelly of Historic Seattle, at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. The city of Seattle says the building is unreinforced masonry and is expected to be dangerous in a quake. These brick walls could collapse, hurting people inside and outside.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

After a big earthquake it could take 10 days for help to arrive, so neighborhoods will be on their own.

The City of Seattle says communication hubs would allow neighbors to meet up. Many neighborhoods already have a natural meeting place, but a major earthquake brings complications.

Is your brick building at serious risk in an earthquake?
Flickr Photo/Helen Cook (CC BY SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/poMYZ

Kim Malcolm speaks with Seattle Times reporter Sandi Doughton about why Seattle still has over a thousand unreinforced masonry buildings (full list here), despite knowledge of their danger in an earthquake and the availability of technology to make them safer.

Doughton is co-author with Daniel Gilbert of the article, "Buildings that kill: The earthquake danger lawmakers have ignored for decades."  

Nearly 100 Tiny Quakes Shake Area Around Mount Hood

May 16, 2016

Mount Hood is trembling. They’re not big tremors. But there are a lot of them.

Close to 100 tiny quakes shook the area around Mount Hood Village between 6 p.m. Sunday night and Monday morning.

The largest had a magnitude of 1.9, meaning people didn’t actually feel it.

The U.S. Geological Survey said a quake has to reach a magnitude of 3 before people actually feel it — and even then, they’d have to be sitting quietly, likely on the upper floors of a building.

Hundreds of search and rescue experts from 13 countries are joining Ecuadorian rescue teams, the nation's foreign minister says, to try to save the lives of anyone who survived a magnitude 7.8 earthquake on Saturday and remains trapped beneath the rubble.

But hour by hour, the odds dwindle that anyone has survived this long.

A magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Ecuador on Saturday has left more than 400 people dead and many more injured.

Thousands are homeless, The Associated Press reports, and highways, air traffic control towers and buildings along the coast have collapsed.

Rescue workers were working to find and aid survivors, while officials warned the general public of the perils of digging through the rubble.

Updated 1:52 a.m. ET Monday:

The death toll from Saturday's earthquake has risen to 262. The new number was given to reporters Sunday night. President Rafael Correa, who cut short a trip to Rome to return to Ecuador, said he expects the death toll to rise. Government officials say there are many people who are still missing.

Original Post:

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador's central coast Saturday evening, killing hundreds and devastating entire regions of the country.

Just more than 24 hours after powerful earthquakes struck a large island in southwest Japan, an even stronger quake has hit the same area.

The Associated Press quotes a Japanese official as saying 19 people were killed, bringing the total for the two big quakes to 29.

Some parts of Oklahoma and Texas now have about the same risk of an earthquake as parts of California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The big difference is, the quakes in Oklahoma and Texas are "induced" — they're caused by oil and gas operations that pump wastewater down into underground wells.

Engineers told state legislatures in 1995 that the Alaskan Way Viaduct would crumble in a major quake. The project to replace the Viaduct is underway but still incomplete.
Flickr Photo/Washington State Department of Transportation CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

When a major quake hit San Francisco in 1989, the Cypress Street Viaduct collapsed, killing 42 people.

The next day, Washington state officials saw images of the viaduct. To their horror, it looked almost identical to the Alaskan Way Viaduct on Seattle’s waterfront.

Some of Washington state's busiest bridges have a surprising design feature deep inside their massive structures.

Preschoolers huddle beneath a table at Green Tree Early Learning Center in Seattle, which conducts monthly earthquake drills.
KUOW Photo/Ann Dornfeld

For parents in the Seattle area, the idea of a big earthquake is scary enough. But what happens if a disaster strikes when your children are in daycare?

State law requires child care centers train their staff – and children in their care – in what to do in an emergency. 

But a KUOW analysis has found that some daycare centers are out of compliance year after year – even in the Seattle neighborhoods most vulnerable to earthquake.

The company that built a 17-story apartment building that collapsed during Saturday's earthquake in Taiwan no longer exists, but three of its former executives have been arrested as prosecutors look into allegations of shoddy building practices.

Taiwanese President-elect Tsai Ing-wen is promising extensive safety checks of old buildings two days after an earthquake killed at least 38 people, according to local media. New questions emerged after stacks of cans were found in the walls of a 17-story building that was the scene of all but two of those deaths.

Rescue efforts continue in southern Taiwan, three days after a powerful magnitude-6.4 earthquake shook the island and killed more than three dozen people. But hopes of finding survivors were fading. Early Monday, more than 100 people were still unaccounted for from the Golden Dragon apartment complex, the center of most rescue efforts.

This weekend, there were countless stories of death — and life.

Federal agencies and university scientists are making progress on the deployment of an earthquake early warning system for the West Coast. That was one of the messages from a half-day earthquake preparedness summit hosted by the White House Tuesday.

Scientists still can't predict an earthquake. The U.S. government, however, has a warning system in the works that it hopes could quickly send out a widespread alarm before most people feel a rumble — and save lives when seconds count.

The recently upgraded network of seismometers and computers, known as ShakeAlert, is advancing through the prototype-testing stage, Sally Jewell, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, said at a news conference Tuesday.

An earthquake of magnitude 7.1 struck the southern coast of Alaska early Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey says. The quake, which was centered just over 160 miles southwest of Anchorage, hit at 1:30 a.m. local time (5:30 a.m. EST), waking up many residents of Alaska's largest city.

Two teams of geologists say portions of the seafloor along the Aleutian Islands in southwestern Alaska could produce tsunamis more devastating than anything seen in the past century. They say California and Hawaii are directly in the line of fire.

Thousands of tremors have happened north of Seattle since last week.

This burst of underground activity is part of trend that started two weeks ago under Vancouver Island. It's called slow-slip, and occurs about every 14 months in the Puget Sound region.

USGS/KUOW

Thousands of people throughout the Puget Sound region felt a 4.8-magnitude earthquake Tuesday night centered between San Juan Island and Vancouver Island.

No major damage was reported, but seismologists are wondering about the role played by slow-slip tremors.

A scene from a simulation by the Washington State Department of Transportation of what could happen if a massive earthquake hits the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
YouTube/WSDOT

You know a major earthquake in Seattle is possible – there was that scary New Yorker article this year with the headline: "The Really Big One."

Now you’ve got a new online tool to help you prepare.

Making school buildings strong enough to withstand a major earthquake is one of the highest priorities for emergency planners on the West Coast. Washington state is taking small steps to identify the most vulnerable schools, while Oregon is actually spending to fix things.

Screenshot of recent earthquake activity in the Glacier Peak area.
USGS

Is the ground feeling a little shaky these days? That's because there's been more and bigger earthquakes than usual in the Pacific Northwest, including a 3.0 magnitude in Stanwood, Washington yesterday. 

State seismologist John Vidale said most of these quakes are clustered up north near Glacier Peak. He added that there hasn't been that much activity in the area for decades. 

Afghan school girls are treated at a hospital after an earthquake in Takhar province, northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. At least 12 students at a girls' school were killed in a stampede as they fled the shaking building.
AP Photo/Zalmai Ashna

Seattle’s small community of Afghan refugees is still feeling emotional aftershocks following Monday’s earthquake.

The epicenter of the magnitude 7.5 quake was in northern Afghanistan.

USGS Looks To Twitter For Speedy Quake Alerts

Oct 12, 2015

The U.S. Geological Survey is exploring the use of Twitter to collect and analyze accounts of earthquakes around the world.

It's undeniable that we live in the age of the smartphone. When something interesting happens, people pull out their phones to tell everyone about it — even when it’s an earthquake.

By monitoring Twitter for words like “earthquake,” and by filtering out longer tweets — under the assumption people experiencing a quake aren’t very chatty — the USGS has been able to develop a new way to send rapid quake alerts.

For years, experts have said that if there’s an earthquake we should "Duck, Cover and Hold." That is, duck under something strong — like a desk — then stay under cover and hold on until the shaking stops.

But Corbett School District superintendent Randi Trani doesn’t think the mantra works for his middle school. Corbett Middle School was built in 1921 without benefit of steel rebar or such modern ideas as tying the walls to the roof.

Oregon Tsunami Maps Dangerously Out Of Date

Sep 27, 2015

Oregon is unprepared for the tsunami that could follow a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. The megaquake has a 1-in-3 chance of hitting in the next 50 years.

Yumei Wang dug one foot into the sand beneath her, and water crept in around it. Like a sandcastle left to the tide, the ground beneath her turned to silty pudding.

But Wang was not at the beach. She was in Northwest Portland’s industrial district, examining the six-mile stretch along the Willamette River that holds more than 90 percent of the state’s fuel supply.

“Is there any worse soil in Portland that we could have built on?” she asked.

Scientists know a little more about how big earthquakes happen, from research published Thursday in the journal Science.

The study from the U.S. Geological Survey looked at a number of subduction zones, but not the Cascadia Subduction Zone, off the Northwest coast. The research doesn't change predictions that there's a one-in-three chance of a big quake in the Northwest in the next 50 years.

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