Thurston County Connection Newsletter
Thurston County Connection
Thurston County Connection
March, 2016
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 Earthquake Past

Are you ready for the next one?

Most of us will likely remember the Nisqually earthquake that hit the region back in 2001. I had barely been on the job as a county Information Officer when I spent the week at the Emergency Operations Center dealing with quake-related issues. But I was not born yet, when a stronger earthquake hit Olympia in 1949. Details in this report from the U. S. Geological Survey.

The epicenter of the 1949 earthquake was between Olympia and Tacoma, along the southern edge of Puget Sound. Property damage in Olympia, Seattle, and Tacoma alone was estimated at $25 million; eight people were killed; and many more were injured.

The 1949 Olympia earthquake occurred on April 13 at 12:55:44 local time with a moment magnitude of 6.7. The shock was felt throughout the state, as well as parts of Oregon, British Columbia, Idaho, and Montana. The ground shook for about 30 seconds and was felt over a 230,000-square-mile area.

It was estimated that 10,000 chimneys in Western Washington required repair. Several structures were condemned, including two schools and a church at Centralia, a junior high school at Auburn, and a library at Chehalis. Water spouted from cracks that formed in the ground at Centralia, Longview, and Seattle.

At Olympia, almost all large buildings were damaged to some extent, including eight structures on the Capitol grounds. Many chimneys and two large smokestacks fell. Public utilities sustained serious damage - water and gas mains were broken, and electric and telegraph services were interrupted.

At Seattle, houses on filled ground were demolished, many old brick buildings were damaged, and chimneys toppled. One wooden water tank and the top of a radio tower collapsed.

In Tacoma, many chimneys were knocked to the ground and many buildings were damaged. A huge section of a 73 meter cliff toppled into Puget Sound shortly after the earthquake; south of Tacoma, railroad bridges were thrown out of alignment. A 23-ton cable saddle was thrown from the top of the Tacoma Narrows bridge tower, causing considerable damage. Only one small aftershock occurred during the next six months.

With the 1949 quake and other reminders, an extensive earthquake exercise will be held in June, called the “Cascadia Rising” drill. You can find out more here.

For information on how to prepare yourself and your family for such emergencies, please visit Thurston County Emergency Management.

By John Tennis

Damage to the old Capital building. Damage to the old Capital building.