VANCOUVER – A 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Port Hardy on Vancouver Island Wednesday night.
According to the United States Geological Survey, (USGS), it struck at 8:10 p.m. PDT and the epicentre was located about 91 km south, off the coast, at a depth of about 11 km. It was originally recorded as a 6.7 but was downgraded to a 6.6 magnitude quake.
Residents in Port Hardy said the ground shook for about 35 to 40 seconds during the preliminary earthquake. Groceries were knocked off the shelves at the local Overwaitea store.
People are saying they felt it as far away as Langley and Kelowna.
The National Weather Service says there is no risk of a tsunami.
However, the USGS says to expect aftershocks. Earthquakes Canada reports there have been three aftershocks – magnitude 5.0, 4.2 and 4.2 struck the same region at about 8:20, 8:41 p.m. and 10:16 p.m. PDT respectively. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the earthquake.
Taimi Mulder, a seismologist with Natural Resources Canada, said this area gets hit by a magnitude 6 earthquake every one to two years. “It occurred on the edge of where the Pacific plate touches the North America plate, where it starts to go underneath,” she said. “It’s an area where we do have a history of having earthquakes.”
“It [was] right at the boundary where the off-shore Juan de Fuca Plate starts to subduct or go under the edge of the North America Plate.”
“It’s part of the normal seismicity that we’ve been getting,” she added, “since we’ve been monitoring very closely over the past 20 years, 30 years.”
Pat Quealey from Emergency Management B.C. said everyone reacted as they should have in this situation. He said they are hearing there may be some minor damage, but no significant damage. However, they are checking into reports that a First Nations lodge may have shifted on its foundations during the earthquake.
“In the wider context, we need to be prepared all along the Pacific Rim to respond to seismic threats,” he said. “The really important thing is we can never be too prepared. We need to be prepared all along the Rim of Fire for this risk.”
“It’s a really good reminder to all of us that preparedness starts with local families,” he added. “We live in a volatile area and it’s necessary to be prepared. Through that vigilance and understanding of the risk, we’ll all do well together.”
Mayor of Port Hardy, Bev Parnham, said she was actually at a reception when the earthquake struck.
“We were just in the process of welcoming the lieutenant-governor to the community, and the earth started to shake and the building started to shake,” she said. “It was up there with one of those ones that you do feel and that you do remember.”
However, everyone remained very cool. “I think by the time we realized what had happened we were all just sort of looking at each other and [said] ‘Oh, that was an earthquake,’” said Parnham.
“We’re not hearing of any reports [of damage]. Our own infrastructure has been checked and things are fine. We haven’t heard any reports from any communities in the North Island. So, we’re not expecting to hear that there is any great deal of damage,” she added.
Emergency services in Port Hardy are on alert, but Parnham said they are always prepared as they live in a seismic area.
Simon Fraser University Geologist Brent Ward said in comparison this was quite a large earthquake. “Very lucky that it’s off the coast and it’s not that close to high population centres,” he said. “Because this is actually bigger than one of the earthquakes that hit Christchurch in New Zealand and that caused extensive damage.”
“This was quite shallow.”
Ward said he is not surprised many people across the Lower Mainland could feel the shaking. “In certain situations where people are living on or on top of thick, soft sediments, the earthquake waves actually become stronger so I would expect that people in Richmond, Delta, parts of Langely, where they’re on the thick Fraser River sediments, would feel the earthquake, whereas someone like me, whose on sort of a bedrock area with thin sediments, I didn’t feel anything.”
Global BC anchor Sophie Lui felt the earthquake in downtown Vancouver. “I was sitting on my couch and I heard my vertical blinds shaking,” she said. “And thought at first that maybe the rain had started, but they kept shaking and I looked back and my chandelier or light fixture was shaking as well. And then I realized that the shaking kept going and kept going and I thought ‘ok I think we’re going through this again.’”
She said she did not feel the building shaking too much, but it did last about 20 to 30 seconds.
“Most people around Vancouver who felt it seemed to be up high in high rises,” she said.
Diane Brennan was visiting her daughter in Sayward on Vancouver Island and said “I just felt the room swaying. I started to just feel dizzy and I was wondering what was going on, and I looked up and the room was just undulating.”