California earthquake a timely reminder for B.C residents: Expert

California earthquake a timely reminder for B.C residents: Expert

While there’s no cause for alarm for Vancouverites following the devastating earthquake that rocked the northern Bay Area of California early Sunday morning, it’s another reminder that it could happen here.

A 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck just before 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 24 near Napa, which is the biggest one to hit the region in the last 25 years. It sent approximately 90 people to hospital, ignited fires and casts tens of thousands of people into darkness.

But Brent Ward, SFU sciences professor, said there’s no evidence to suggest that earthquake could trigger one in B.C., but it’s an important reminder for people to plan for the big one due to hit the Lower Mainland in the future.

“It’s always a good wakeup call for people to think, to realize we are in an active earthquake zone,” he added.

Vancouver verges on the edge of two plates. The Juan de Fuca plate moves towards and under the North American plate, known as the Cascadia Subduction Zone. It could potentially bring a 9.0-magnitude earthquake from Vancouver Island, to Vancouver and stretch down as far as Seattle or Oregon, according to Ward.

The California quake was a result of pressure building up along the San Andreas Fault, and that same stress is happening to the plates in B.C. Eventually, it’s going to build up so much that the rocks will break and start an earthquake, Ward explained.

“It would look pretty similar to what happened in Japan,” he said. “There would be a lot of intense ground shaking over a very large area.

“It would be a very extensive, large magnitude disaster.”

According to the City of Vancouver, there’s a one in four chance a major earthquake will hit the region in the next 50 years.

If an earthquake did strike, Ward said it’s important for people to have a kit and backup plans.

“The chances of everybody in the family being together when the earthquake happens are so low,” he noted. “You have to have a way for people to get to places after the earthquake.”

– With files from the Canadian Press


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