Let’s hope that title is good for the rest of the month, too. Did you feel it? The quake that woke the island, or at least some of the more restless sleepers, or at least some of their more attentive pets? The quake wasn’t even on the island, but a 4.6-ish earthquake about twenty miles east of the island hit on the mainland. For folks that are familiar with quakes it was small. For others it was something new. For all it is a reminder that Whidbey Has Faults.
It hit at 2:51AM. Wakey, wakey. But, it only lasted a few seconds. Pictures rattled. Pets barked. By the time it mentally registered there was already no need to drop, cover, and hold on. It was, however, a good idea to walk around looking for cracks, leaks, and various odors from fuel or septic tanks. Later in the day was a good time to think and maybe even act on adding, updating, or improving earthquake preparedness kits. Better to do that when it seems silly than after there’s a serious need.
The quake was relatively small, but the effects were felt throughout the Sound, across the mountains, and beyond the borders. Thousands of people used the USGS’ Did You Feel It service, a simple and wise idea that helps geologists gather data that can’t be collected from seismometers. Did things rattle and shake, or fall and break? Were you excited or frightened? Seismometers tell scientists how the earth moved, but how it moved people is important for emergency planning. If a quake looked severe but only shook someone’s martini, well, okay. Look around at global news reports and see that some small quakes cause more damage than larger quakes because of where houses were built, or where people work.
This was not the Big One, and may not even be on one of the big faults. The biggest Big One is the Juan de Fuca fault that’s inspired headlines, partly for its similarities with the big quakes and tsunamis in Sumatra and Japan. For more of a professional and scientific perspective, check out another Nick Zentner video.) Subduction faults like those can generate 9.0 quakes. They last minutes, not seconds, and are devastating. The South Whidbey Fault, as well as others in the Puget Sound Basin, are “near surface continental crust” faults, not as deep, not as severe, generating up to ‘only’ 7.0 magnitude quakes. The Seattle Fault produced such a quake a few hundred years ago that produced a tsunami that funneled into Cultus Bay on south Whidbey, as well as popping up a shelf on land almost twenty feet during the earthquake.
Those numbers and consequences can be alarming, and they’re worth preparing for; but they’re also the outliers. Every earthquake is not a 9.0 or a 7.0. Most of them aren’t felt, a few more are felt but without damage, enough are big enough to cause at least some damage, but it is only the biggest that make it to the headlines.
The good news for the Salish Sea population is an attitude of self-reliance and minimalism. Backpackers, sailors, and generally frugal folk already have much of the right equipment for at least moderate interruptions in services. Boaters and RVers can already have self-supportive accommodations that are designed to deal with waves on water or bumps on land.
The greatest impact of this morning’s earthquake has probably been a lot more social media traffic as people share stories. A quick check at a local hardware store didn’t find any extra foot traffic. That may happen over the next few weeks or days. Emergency preparedness kits are simpler than they sound, but they do need to be updated. There’s also good reasons to have one for the house, one for the car, and one at work. The day before an earthquake, such preparations seem silly. During and immediately afterwards, they’re items that can jump to the top of the To-Do list.
The Earth quakes and Whidbey shakes. That’s natural. Getting ready for it, and then getting on with life, that’s natural, too.