Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vancouver Earthquakes

While it was not enough to wake me from my sleep in my basement apartment, there was a minor earthquake yesterday morning in Vancouver. According to the geologist, it would have felt like a big truck was driving past your house. This is the second magnitude 3 or less quake that has shaken the area in the last week, leading to speculation that there could be a larger earthquake in the not so distant future. I believe she said a 10-20% chance of a big one in the next 50 years, which is significant on the geological scale.

I know that I have some readers in BC. Did anyone else feel any tremors? I was sleeping and did not wake up. The last one was at around 6:45am Tuesday. I know that Vancouver has been planning for a major earthquake for a generation or two, and many buildings are earthquake proof. As a resident I am concerned that a large quake could produce a substantial mess, even if our engineering ingenuity softens the blow.

I remember at the job orientation at GM Place, they told us that it was the safest structure in the city to be in a major earthquake. The hockey arena was built to be earthquake proof, as though it is intended to be used as a crisis center in a catastrophic event. It makes sense to build a venue in an earthquake zone that would remain completely safe if the ground shook during a live event. They built it not long after that earthquake during the world series in Oakland California. Cali is right on our southern border, isn't it?


  1. I believe you DO share the same geological fault line with California. You can visit with our west coast American friends as you all float towards Hawaii on a big fast moving island. It is too bad we can't exchange quebec with British Columbia for that trip

    Rob C

  2. and many buildings are earthquake proof

    There's no such thing as "earthquake proof." The buildings are designed to resist the effects of earthquakes to a certain magnatude (which I'm not sure the value of) with no to minimal damage.

    I recall one study done some time ago, when I lived on the coast, that said if a "big one" hit Howe street would have broken glass that was 1 meter deep. I definately would not want to be on the streets downtown when that happens.

    In all my years living in the Lower Mainland (30) I never felt any of the quakes that hit. I was either sleeping or walking. Apparently, when the littles one are occuring if you are on your feet walking you do not feel the effects of them. If you are sitting you are more likely to feel their effects.

  3. Anon:

    It is not the same fault line. California sits on the San Andreas fault, which is a slip strike fault. This is when two plates slide latteraly past each other.

    The fault off the coase of BC is the Cascadia fault, which is a subduction zone fault. This is where one plate slides underneath another.

    The down side to a subduction fault is that they build up much more stored energy than a slip strike fault, resulting in very power, if infrequent, earthquakes as compared to the slip strike. The upside is that this fault line is out in the ocean, quite West of Vancouver Island, and not on the continent itself, so any earthquake epicentre will be some distance away from coastal BC, and thus populated areas will not feel the strongest ground movement. The biggest danger from an earthquake on the Cascadia fault is the damage from potential Tsunamis. Sorry Ditchmond.

  4. Last Friday 8:32 am felt the small quake. Ceiling fan was gently swaying. Almost didn't need to stir my own coffee.

  5. Ice, you're doomed! As the experts always say,some time in the next thousand years,the Pacific Coast is going to be hit by the Big One.
    Here in Kelowna, all was serene,as usual.

    I was working in Vancouver when that quake hit Oakland. My Boss's wife sold insurance. After the quake, she was busy 18 hours a day for weeks writing earthquake insurance policies.She was a miserable bitch, but during that time she was seen with a smile on her face!

    I'm beginning to think the quakes are caused by the insurance industry somehow,every time there's a shaker,they write loads of policies.