Major earthquake could soon come knocking

According to Earthquakes Canada, in the last month between December 29 and January 28, southwest British Columbia had 79 earthquakes. Six of those occurred within regions measured from Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack. But ground zero for racking up the numbers was the volatile region west of northern Vancouver Island and measured from Port Hardy. That area had 34 rumbles, the largest being a 3.9 shaker last Thursday, one day after the Great British Columbia Shake Out.

OK, so you didn’t feel any of them. Most of those little tremours were less than a magnitude of 3.0. But while they may be out of sight and out of mind, the constant jiggling of B.C.’s natural ground forces is good reason to get ready for when the jiggle becomes a serious grinder. And that fact was the whole point of the Shake Out practice last week.

British Columbia clearly leads the way in having the most and the biggest earthquakes in the nation. According to Natural Resources Canada, about 5,000 earthquakes are recorded in Canada each year and of the top 10 earthquakes nationally, six have happened in this province.

The mother of them all was a magnitude 9.0 quake on January 26, 1700 in the Cascadia subduction zone. Since then there has been an 8.1 shake on August 22, 1949 off Haida Gwaii, a 7.4 quake in the same area on June 24, 1970, a 7.3 on Vancouver Island on June 23, 1946, a 7.0 on Haida Gwaii May 26, 1929 and a 6.9 on Vancouver Island December 6, 1918.

That magnitude 9.0 great quake in 1700 was in fact one of the world’s largest earthquakes. The Cascadia thrust fault ruptured along 1,000 kilometres from Vancouver Island to northern California causing tremendous shaking and a huge tsunami that swept across the Pacific to hit Japan. Geologic evidence shows that this great quake was not an anomaly but has repeated itself many times. According to the research, 13 great earthquakes have occurred in the region in the last 6,000 years, about one in every 400 or so years. Statistically, we are over 300 years into the potential for the next great quake. In the last 130 years, we have had four magnitude 7+ earthquakes between southwestern B.C. and northern Washington.

What to do when an earthquake hits was the focus of the Great B.C. Shake Out project. But duck and cover when the shaking starts is the last move in the daisy chain of preparedness for when that moment happens. To be self-sufficient and ready to go it alone for at least 72 hours after the earthquake hits means having a plan for everyone in the family, a grab-ready emergency kit at home, at work and in the car, a back-up plan and an out-of-town (or out of province) contact number of a relative or friend who everyone can relay messages to in the event communications are down in some areas.

Most people, though, are far from earthquake ready. These events happen ‘out there’ somewhere else. But that jiggling under our feet should be a head’s up. To get up to speed, the Provincial Emergency Program (www.pep.bc.ca) has in depth information on knowing the risks, making a plan and how to put a kit together. The information is also available at the federal government site www.getprepared.gc.ca.

On the same day as the Great B.C. Shake Out, a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck Simeulue in Indonesia. And in addition, there have been four tremours greater than magnitude 7.0 in January alone in Pakistan, Chile, Argentina and the Loyalty Islands.

As for our jiggling province, a major earthquake could strike 50 years from now. Or tomorrow.

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