The ground is moving under your feet. You probably won’t notice a thing, but a series of earthquakes has been hitting the Pacific Northwest.
More than 130 earthquakes have been recorded in Washington and Oregon over the last two weeks. Most are centered under Mt. Hood in Oregon and Mount Rainier here in Washington, but state seismologist John Vidale said it’s nothing to get too concerned about.
“There’s nothing out of the ordinary in our region,” he said. “There’s been little swarms under several of the volcanoes, but those happen several times a year and been going on for decades without any significant activity,” he said. “We’re really not on edge at the seismic network.”
Vidale spoke with KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz Show. “We probably record 10 or 20 times as many earthquakes than people can feel,” he said. There are earthquakes all around us. We just never feel them.”
The biggest quake in this seismic swarm came April 7. It was centered near the town of Sherwood, southwest of Portland, and it registered 3.3 on the Richter scale.
Most of the quakes hitting the Pacific Northwest right now are too small to feel. Vidale said they are studying the swarm to see if they can find any way to predict when a large one will hit.
“We just have no leads whatsoever,” Vidale said. “We just know where there are more earthquakes and less earthquakes,” he said.
All seismologists can do is study the faults under the ground and look for clues.
“We’re sort of looking for the faults winding up as the stress builds,” Vidale said. “But we just don’t have any clues from when they’re ready to let loose.”
Vidale said all you can do to prepare for a big earthquake is to get your emergency kit ready.
He said the Pacific Northwest is due for a large one, something of the 9.0 variety, but Vidale said those only happen about every 500 years.
We’re in that window right now, but Vidale said there’s no way to know if the faults beneath our feet are ready to move.
According to the City of Seattle, there was a 9.0 off the Washington Coast in 1700. The ocean floor dropped several feet. In more recent history, Seattle experienced a 6.8 in 2001 – the Nisqually earthquake. The city estimates it caused about $2 billion worth of damage.