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3.6-magnitude earthquake hits south of Windsor, Ont.

3.6-magnitude earthquake hits south of Windsor, Ont.

A 3.6-magnitude earthquake has hit the community of Amherstburg, more than 20 kilometres south of downtown Windsor.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake happened just after 8 p.m. on Thursday.

It was measured at a depth of 7.8 kilometres.

Amherstburg police said in an update on Twitter that there were no reports of damages.

Residents in Windsor and Detroit, Michigan reported feeling tremors at the time of the earthquake.

According to Earthquakes Canada, the Geological Survey of Canada records approximately 4,000 earthquakes in Canada yearly with most happening on the west coast. However, only about 50 of those earthquakes are generally felt by residents.


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Tsunami warning ends for B.C. after large earthquake strikes off Alaska

Tsunami warning ends for B.C. after large earthquake strikes off Alaska

A tsunami warning for coastal British Columbia and parts of Alaska has ended after a powerful earthquake struck about 250 kilometres southeast of Chiniak, Alaska, early today.

The quake struck at 1:31 a.m. PT Tuesday and prompted a tsunami warning for the entire B.C. coast and a tsunami watch for the entire U.S. West Coast.

In Port Alberni, a city that was devastated by a tsunami in 1964, Mayor Mike Ruttan activated the four tsunami sirens at around 3 a.m. PT, alerting 17,000 residents to move to higher ground.

“The warning was repeated every 10 minutes for two minutes [in duration]. They’re very loud, there’s no way you can ignore them. And then in between time, the paper mill was blowing its horns for extended periods of time to let people know there was civic emergency.”

Ruttan said although the city could have communicated better on social media, the evacuation was orderly.

“I am pleased with the response for the most part,” he said.

In Tofino, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, warning sirens were activated on the two main beaches in town, and hundreds of people evacuated to the emergency reception centres at the community hall and an elementary school.

“Everything has proceeded in a really orderly fashion,” said Tofino Mayor Josie Osborn. “This is why we train, this is why we do exercises and this is why spend time making emergency plans and then testing them.”

The provincial emergency systems worked the way it was supposed to, said B.C.’s public safety minister.

“Whether it was in Esquimalt where we saw firefighters and first responders going door to door, or… Queen Charlotte City which was fully evacuated, or the sirens in Tofino and Ucluelet, and people going to their local emergency centres, people responded admirably and I think the emergency services did a remarkable job,” said Mike Farnworth.

The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported the quake’s strength at 8.2 early Tuesday and later revised that to 7.9, with a depth of 25 kilometres. At least three aftershocks were reported.

“This is a place in the world where we see historically a lot of large earthquakes,” said CBC seismologist Johanna Wagstaffe.

Wagstaffe said early data showed the movement of tectonic plates under the ocean was more of a side-to-side motion than what’s known as a mega-thrust.

“Mega thrusts are the ones we really worry about when it comes to widespread and large tsunamis because there is so much more vertical displacement of the ocean floor,” she said.

“Side-to-side can definitely still generate a tsunami, and again we are seeing a small one, but this motion doesn’t generate as large of a tsunami as what we would get with a mega-thrust.”

Emergency Info BC warned people in the affected area to move away from the water, off beaches, and away from harbours, marinas, breakwaters, bays and inlets. Boat operators were advised to move their boats out to sea to a depth of at least 55 metres.

Trevor Jarvis, the emergency co-ordinator for the Village of Masset on the north end of Haida Gwaii, said he sent out an emergency text to residents and set off the tsunami emergency siren just after 2 a.m. on Tuesday. Everyone on the north end of the village was told to get to higher ground.

The quake struck 280 kilometres southeast of Kodiak, Alaska. People reported on social media that it was felt hundreds of kilometres away in Anchorage. Some said they saw the water retreating in Kodiak harbour, a possible sign that strong waves could return.

However, Kodiak police later said the tsunami warning was downgraded to advisory. They also said they received two reports that tide levels in the channel were fluctuating “by six inches to one foot.”

The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a tsunami watch for the state of Hawaii that was soon cancelled.


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Eastern Canada, including big cities such as Montreal, at risk for earthquakes, warns study

Eastern Canada, including big cities such as Montreal, at risk for earthquakes, warns study

While people in British Columbia are mindful of the fact they could eventually face some of the strongest earthquakes in the world, at least one study warns there’s a lack of awareness of the risk in Eastern Canada.

One report released last summer predicts Montrealers could suffer $45 billion in economic losses if the city were to experience an earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale. That’s the estimated strength of a tremor that hit Montreal in 1732.

Maurice Lamontagne, a seismologist with the Geological Survey of Canada, says 300 houses were damaged back then but if a similar earthquake were to occur now it “would cause a lot more damage.”

The study by Zurich-based Swiss Re, a company that helps cover other insurers, noted that Quebec’s Charlevoix region northeast of Quebec City was hit in February 1663 by a 7.0 magnitude quake.

Lamontagne added that in 1929, an earthquake just off the shore of Newfoundland measured 7.2 on the Richter scale.

The tsunami that followed caused most of the devastation and killed 28 people when it hit the shore.

Each year, there are about 450 quakes in Ontario and all points east.

“You don’t get huge earthquakes like they get in Japan, in California,” Lamontagne said. “But we do get what you call moderate earthquakes, so six to seven on the Richter scale are possible.”

The Swiss Re study, entitled: “Earthquake Risk in Eastern Canada: Mind the Shakes,” says quakes in the East tend to be of lower magnitude than in the West, “but their loss-inflicting potential, particularly in southern Quebec and eastern Ontario, is huge.”

The study points out that three of the biggest cities in Canada — Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City — are all located in the most earthquake-prone regions of the East.

Two tremors measuring 3.0 and 3.5 were recorded in the Beaupre region on Jan. 2 and Jan. 4 and were felt in Quebec City, about 40 kilometres away.

Pierre Babinsky, a Quebec spokesman for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says 85 per cent of people it surveyed in 2017 said they didn’t think their home was at risk of being damaged by an earthquake.

“It’s about three per cent of people who have earthquake insurance in the Quebec City area, about four per cent in Montreal,” he said. “And Charlevoix, where they felt a few stronger earthquakes, the average isn’t much higher.”

In B.C., 65 per cent of households have earthquake insurance, according to Swiss Re.

“In the case of earthquake risk in Quebec, most people are unaware — or if they are aware that it’s the second seismic zone in Canada, they don’t believe it will actually affect them,” Babinsky said.

In June 2010, the Parliament Buildings were evacuated following a 5.0 magnitude earthquake near Ottawa. Several buildings are still undergoing major renovations that include seismic reinforcement of foundations and walls.

Babinsky said the insurance bureau has been raising awareness by touring cities in Quebec with a simulator, so people can experience an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude.

“Maybe they just want to prepare their home, maybe they want to get some insurance, it’s up to them,” he said, “But we want them to have the information they need to make that decision.”

It would cost an additional $200 a year for earthquake coverage.

Babinsky stressed the insurance industry has the required capital to cover a major quake, which he said would be about nine on the Richter scale in British Columbia and about seven in Quebec.

“Right now, for all the policies that are out there, both residential and commercial, the industry has enough capital to cover any claims that would occur in one of those types of earthquakes,” he said.

“But if we have two successive earthquakes…then obviously we need to make sure that we’re ready as an industry and as a financial sector to go through that.”

Seismologist Lamontagne says there’s a 45 per cent chance that Charlevoix will have an earthquake over the next 50 years that would cause significant damage. For Montreal, it’s about “maybe 10, 15 per cent over the next 50 years.”

“In 1988, there was a 5.9 quake south of Chicoutimi that was felt everywhere in Quebec and in the coming decades we’ll have another one of that order,” he predicted.

Some tips from Canadian insurance companies about preparing for an earthquake:

— Know the safe and dangerous places in your home; plan and practise evacuation.

— Decide with family members where to meet in case of separation after an earthquake.

— Talk to relatives about what to do if they’re at home, school, or at work and the quake separates your family.

— Place heavy objects on lower shelves to prevent them from falling on someone.

— Secure tall pieces of furniture and shelves, mirrors and furniture on wheels.

— Make sure chemical products are securely stored.

— Don’t forget to practise, Drop, Cover, and Hold On.


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Washington state residents rattled by Mount St. Helens tremors

Washington state residents rattled by Mount St. Helens tremors

Mount St. Helens is rumbling again, but it’s not the volcano that worries Washington state seismologists the most.

A 3.9-magnitude jolt Wednesday morning, about 11 km northeast of the volcano, was the strongest tremor in the seismically active area since 1981. It was followed by a swarm of up to 150 smaller earthquakes.

In 1980, an eruption blew out the side of the volcano, killing 57 people and devastating the landscape. Cascades of water, mud, and rock raged down valleys and knocked down forests.

But the latest quakes do not signal that the volcano is moving closer to another eruption, seismologist Seth Moran told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

“There are earthquakes that are occurring at Mount St. Helens kind of continuously,” said Moran, who is a seismologist and scientist-in-charge at the United States Geological Survey’s Cascades Volcano Observatory.

The most hazardous volcano in Washington state is considered by seismologists to be Mount Rainier, where volcanic mud flows, called lahars, roar down the Puyallup River drainage system every 500 to 1,000 years.

“That’s a long time from a humanity perspective, but from a geologic perspective that’s pretty frequent and a really good reason for believing it’s going to happen again,” Moran said.

Tens of thousands of people are in the path of a large lahar, including the Washington communities of Orting, Sumner and Puyallup. In a worst-case scenario the lahar could reach Tacoma, though related flooding is more likely to affect the city.

Moran said the lahar detection system set up two decades ago by Pierce County with USGS assistance is now old technology, but it can be updated to provide more effective and earlier warning for the “bump in the night” event that could give residents as little as 45 minutes to escape to safety.

“We’ve done studies of the volcano itself and there are parts of the volcano, of the cone, that we know are somewhat unstable and have the potential to let loose again with one of these things,” Moran said. “The likely scenario is it wouldn’t happen unless the volcano is in a state of unrest or eruption.”

While the recent earthquake close to Mount St. Helens might seem alarming, Moran said it is not cause for concern.

If magma was moving in the volcano, Moran said, “It would be different. We’ve seen Mount St. Helens wake up twice and in both cases it was pretty obvious what was happening in terms of how different things were or how different things quickly became.”

​When the volcano became active again in 2004, he said, the earthquakes started small and increased in strength and frequency over time instead of decreasing, as they have this week. There were also ground deformations and glacier cracks.


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Light earthquakes strike in northern B.C. and off Vancouver Island

Light earthquakes strike in northern B.C. and off Vancouver Island

An earthquake hit northern B.C. near Alaska and the Yukon at 4:10 p.m. today (December 18).

The quake was located on land at a depth of 10 kilometres (6 miles) and 53 kilometres (33 miles) northwest of Mosquito, Alaska, and 127 kilometres (78 miles) southwest of Whitehorse, Yukon.

The U.S. Geological Survey has listed it as a 4.1-magnitude event while Earthquakes Canada has listed it measured it as a 4.3-magnitude quake.

Both measurements of the seismic event fall within the light category on the Richter scale, which is stronger than a minor earthquake yet significant damage is unlikely.

Meanwhile, a light earthquake also struck offshore west of Vancouver Island on December 16 at 8:11 p.m.

The epicentre of the 4.2-magnitude quake was located 166 kilometres (103 miles) west of Port Hardy, at a depth of 10 kilometres (6 miles).

A few quakes have struck the area over the past few weeks. On December 5, a 4.0-magnitude quake occurred in the area between Haida Gwaii and Vancouver Island. Before that, a 4.5-magnitude quake struck offshore of Vancouver Island 174 kilometres west of Port Hardy on December 3.


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Old drawings could assist new earthquake plan at the B.C. Legislature

Old drawings could assist new earthquake plan at the B.C. Legislature

The imposing British Columbia Parliament Buildings have a fatal weakness: they could collapse in a major earthquake.

The legislature, as the buildings are more commonly known, was built long before modern seismic building codes were adopted. Engineers have identified its iconic dome above the centre block as being particularly vulnerable to damage.

Fixing the century-old structure would be expensive with past estimates pegging a retrofit at somewhere between $700 million and $900 million.

But now the Speaker and legislative officers are working on a proposal that could lead to the construction of a new seismically-robust back-up building.

Craig James, a legislative clerk, said such a plan could draw inspiration from a historic architect.

Francis Rattenbury gained fame in the early 1900’s for a number of landmark buildings, including the B.C. Parliament Buildings and the nearby Empress Hotel.

“One option that we have is to take one of Rattenbury’s drawings to replicate a portion of this building over there, which in looking at it would be spectacular,” said James.

The proposal would see the old brick armoury building that currently stands behind the legislature torn down to make way for a new building.

“That building would in some part replicate on a smaller scale this place,” James said. “But also a larger chamber could be built over there so that in the event that something did happen here and this place was unusable, perhaps we could use it.”

Of course, government does not need an ornate legislative assembly to function. And building a back-up legislative assembly would not be cheap, likely costing tens of millions of dollars. But James notes that is about one-tenth of the cost of retrofitting the legislature itself.

Gary Lenz, the sergeant-at-arms, says ensuring continuity of government and a rapid response to an emergency are important.

“We all form that linkage towards passing of bills and legislation, which is critical if there’s a major earthquake or there’s a major disaster in the province.”

Speaker Darryl Plecas said a new building would play a crucial role in an emergency, and would also make the eventual seismic upgrade of the legislature more feasible.

“We could really be helpful in two ways. One is we help ensure continuity of government because we have a place for people to work. And then we have a place to work whilst we were doing seismic upgrading, so we provide for an enhanced level of safety along the way.”

In the meantime, legislative staff are working on improving the earthquake response plan, including better securing some of the statues atop the building’s exterior.

Other measures already in effect on the grounds include early warning sensors and accessible containers with emergency supplies.

Staff also hope to have early warning apps installed on mobile phones belonging to legislature employees within the coming months.


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Are you ’emergency ready’? The Great B.C. ShakeOut is here

Ahead of Thursday’s Great B.C. ShakeOut — a province-wide earthquake drill — emergency responders are reminding people what it actual means to be “emergency ready.”

“It is not enough for people to purchase a 72-hour emergency kit, to be really ready for any emergency, one needs to have an emergency plan, a kit of supplies, be trained to administer first aid and continue to maintain their supplies and skills for an emergency,” Karen MacPherson, CEO of St. John Ambulance British Columbia and Yukon said in a media release.

A survey of 800 people conducted by Ipsos Reid last April found that just 7 per cent of British Columbians are doing all four things that St. John Ambulance says you need to be ready for a major emergency like an earthquake: create an emergency plan, build an emergency kit, get trained in first aid and fourth, keep all three up to date.

People should be prepared to be sufficient for up to 72 hours.

Despite so few people saying they’re actually doing all four things, the survey — which was commissioned by St. John Ambulance — found that 34 per cent of British Columbians rate their household’s overall level of emergency readiness as “excellent/good.”

St. John Ambulance suggests people check out their website — — where they’ve identified “four easy steps to become ’emergency ready,’ complete with a free emergency ready plan and checklist.”

The Great B.C. Shakeout is scheduled for Thursday at 10:19 a.m. At that time, participants should practice how to “drop, Cover and hold on,” St. John Ambulance explained. Register at


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4.5-magnitude earthquake rattles Vancouver Island

4.5-magnitude earthquake rattles Vancouver Island

Officials say a small earthquake has struck off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

The United States Geological Survey says the 4.5-magnitude quake struck at 2:26 a.m. Wednesday.

The tremor’s epicentre was recorded about 170 kilometres west of Tofino at a depth of 10 kilometres.

No injuries or damage were reported.

Emergency Info BC said in a tweet that the earthquake did not pose any threat.


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Preparing for B.C.’s ‘big one’: What Mexico’s earthquake is telling experts

Preparing for B.C.’s ‘big one’: What Mexico’s earthquake is telling experts

With the death toll of Mexico’s earthquake at 225 and counting and rescue efforts continuing, UBC researchers are weighing in on how a similar quake would affect the Vancouver area.

Carlos Ventura is a professor in civil engineering and the director of the earthquake engineering research facility at UBC. Ventura’s work studies the behaviour of structures under the influence of seismic activity. When asked if the Lower Mainland would see similar destruction to Mexico City, Ventura said not necessarily.

“Mexico City was built on a lake — a dry lake,” he said. “That is like gelatin. Every time there is an earthquake the shaking is always enhanced.”

In Vancouver, the soil conditions are different. Even Richmond, which has softer soil than other areas in the Lower Mainland, doesn’t have the same type of clay that Mexico has.

Even so, Ventura said Mexico’s 7.0 magnitude quake is still a reminder that Vancouver is in “earthquake country.”

“Everybody is always concerned about the ‘big one,’ the subduction earthquake, magnitude nine, etcetera, but the probability of having an earthquake like the one today near Vancouver is very real,” he said. “And that, to us, is the message right now.”

Vancouver resident Jaime Stein is currently in Mexico and felt the earthquake from the 14th floor of an office building. For him, experiencing the shaking first-hand was unlike what he imagined it would be, even though Vancouver’s “big one” is often on his mind.

“I’ve never been in anything like that,” he told CTV News over Skype. “As a Vancouver native you always think about a potential earthquake coming, but when it started moving it was like being on a really rocky boat and your legs aren’t as strong as you think they are. You’re just trying to move as quick as you can and you just hope that it ends quickly.”

Here in Vancouver, Ventura said the quality of construction is a significant factor in how much damage the city would see. Currently, the building code allows buildings to take some damage without collapsing. The philosophy of the building code, he explained, is to ensure people can evacuate safely. Instead, Ventura said some residential homes including mega-homes from the 1980s and quickly constructed mid-rise buildings could be at a greater risk.

“There are some old buildings that have been there for centuries, being subjected to very strong earthquakes and they’re still standing,” he said. “So being old doesn’t mean being bad. It’s just good construction and that makes a difference.”


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‘It was scary really’: Mexicans in B.C. anxious in aftermath of earthquake

‘It was scary really’: Mexicans in B.C. anxious in aftermath of earthquake

Mexicans in B.C. are anxious but determined to help after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Mexico City on Tuesday evening.

According to Mexican officials, 225 people were killed, less than two weeks after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit southern Mexico, killing nearly 100 people.

Gustavo Garcia is a cook at a Vancouver restaurant, but his parents and sisters live in Mexico City.

“It was scary really,” he said.

“A lot of buildings — around 30, 40 buildings — went down.

The city was in chaos.

One of the neighbourhoods close to my house was completely destroyed.”

Garcia said he was overcome with relief when his mother called and said his family’s home was safe.

But close by, many people needed help.

“[Across] the street. it was a school. It was a kindergarten and some of the students were trapped in the school as well. A friend of mine called me and said he was trying to help people, that there were people screaming,” said Garcia.

“I wish I could be there to help.”

The quake struck just hours after an annual drill which falls on the anniversary of a deadly earthquake in 1985.

‘It’s like gelatin’

UBC civil engineering professor Carlos Ventura studies earthquakes in an effort to make buildings safer, and has conducted research in Mexico.

He says Mexico City is unique because it is built on the bed of a former lake.

“It is mostly the type of material that is very soft — it’s like gelatin,” he said.

“Imagine a bowl of gelatin that you’re shaking, and in the middle it shakes more and if you put buildings there then the shaking will increase significantly.”

Ventura said he hopes to get a team of Canadian civil engineers together to travel to Mexico City to help in the rescue and rebuilding efforts.

No warning system in B.C.

In many of the videos coming out of Mexico, a droning siren can be heard just before the shaking begins.

Mexico City’s early detection system gave people approximately 10 seconds of warning that the earthquake was coming.

But in B.C., which shares several tectonic similarities with Mexico, there’s still no functional early detection system.

Ocean Networks Canada is developing a detection system for B.C. with $5-million in funding, and plans on delivering the technology to the province in 2019.


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