earthquakes | KUOW News and Information

earthquakes

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.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, center, and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, right, get a tour of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network from Paul Bodin, left, and John Vidale, rear.
KUOW Photo/Deborah Wang

The alert comes in on your cell phone: “Earthquake! Earthquake! Moderate shaking expected in 31 seconds.”

That could be just enough warning to let you take action that could save your life, say scientists building an earthquake emergency warning system on the West Coast.

Pacific Northwest businesses have noticed an uptick in earthquake preparation sales and inquiries since the New Yorker wrote about an expected 9.0 magnitude earthquake.

Bill Radke, Deb Wang, Chris Vance and Luke Burbank  at the Leif Erikson Lodge as part of the 'Week in Review' summer tour.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

KUOW's Week in Review was at Leif Erikson Lodge in Ballard in front of a live audience as part of the show's summer tour. On the docket: what's the solution for affordable housing? Also, should we save a little viaduct to preserve that view? Is there a fairer way to enforce the outdoor pot smoking ban? And a week after the New Yorker earthquake piece, are you still shaking?

Bill Radke convenes a panel of Live Wire radio's Luke Burbank, KUOW's Deborah Wang, former state GOP head Chris Vance and special guests.

U.S. Geological Survey

Kathryn Schulz’s New Yorker article about Northwest earthquakes sent shockwaves through the Seattle area last week.

It described the damage a 9.0 magnitude quake offshore in the Cascadia subduction zone and resulting tsunami would do across a broad swath of the West Coast. The piece in the New Yorker itself was titled "The Really Big One," but a scarier headline appeared on social media: “The Earthquake That Will Devastate Seattle.”

A seismogram of an earthquake off California.
U.S. Geological Survey

Ross Reynolds talks with Pacific Northwest Seismic Network director John Vidale about the challenges of creating an early warning system for earthquakes.

Crews have yet to finish stabilizing the soil behind the seawall. That work is going on in front of Colman Dock, nearby. But work has stopped in front of the shops and restaurants for tourist season.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

It's been two weeks since the shops and restaurants of the Elliott Bay Seawall reopened after a long winter of being closed for construction.

Since reopening July 1, tourists have enjoyed unseasonably gorgeous weather for riding the Seattle Great Wheel, gorging on oysters and trying on Seahawks T-shirts.

KUOW's Bill Radke discusses the week's news with Bill Finkbeiner, Erica C. Barnett and Knute Berger in front of a live audience at University Heights as part of the of the 'Week in Review' summer tour.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

After reading this week's New Yorker article about The Really Big One, what scares you most about Seattle? Should your city snoop into your trash bin? And why should Seattle accept so much growth? Also: Bertha has a new restart date.

Bill Radke ponders the week’s news with journalists Erica C. Barnett and Knute Berger and former Republican State Senate Majority Leader Bill Finkbeiner.

Maybe you learned about it in high school, heard it on OPB, saw it in newspapers or maybe you have a subscription to The New Yorker. Or maybe all this earthquake talk is new to you.

Seismologists predict that the Northwest has a 37 percent chance of experiencing a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake happening in the next 50 years. It will be so disruptive, it will change the Pacific Northwest forever.

Ross Reynolds speaks with Lynne Miller from the King County Office of Emergency Management about the essentials we tend to forget when putting together our emergency kits.

Ross Reynolds interviews Roger Faris on simple things you can do prepare your home for an earthquake. Faris helped launch the Seattle Project Impact Earthquake Home Retrofit Program and he’s worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in disaster areas from Alaska to Florida to figure out what can be done to reduce damage from disaster.

An earthquake in 1949 collapsed ancillary structure to commercial building in Seattle.
Flickr Photo/King County, WA (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Kim Malcolm talks to Seattle Times reporter Sandi Doughton about what to expect and how to prepare for when a big earthquake shakes the Northwest.

David Hyde speaks with Vaughn Palmer, columnist for the Vancouver Sun, about seismic upgrading in British Columbia and how the province would fare if the region were hit by a big earthquake.

Engineer Calls Oregon Earthquake Investment 'A Start'

Jul 15, 2015

The Oregon Legislature made its largest-ever investment for earthquake improvements this past session, but experts say the state still has a long way to go.

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