Is Anchorage earthquake sign of what’s to come for Seattle?
Anchorage, Alaska was rocked by a 7.0 earthquake Friday morning, and with the Northwest region primed for a quake of its own, it provided us with an interesting glimpse into what could be coming sooner rather than later.
Citizens of Anchorage were woken up Friday by a quake that fractured roads, shattered windows, and even collapsed some buildings. With Seattle ever-aware of the impending “Big One,” it certainly makes one wonder what’s in store.
Speaking on the Anchorage quake and its ramifications for the rest of the Northwest, was Bill Steele of UW’s Seismic Network.
“This is the kind of earthquake we have in the Puget Sound area every 20 to 30 years on average — we could certainly see another one of these next year, or in the next decade or so,” he told the Ron and Don Show on KIRO Radio.
More than that, the Anchorage earthquake was “very similar to the kind that we’re most likely to get next, which could be much more violent than what we saw with the Nisqually earthquake.”
The Nisqually earthquake hit Washington back in 2001, causing upwards of $2 billion in damage. It was measured at a 6.8 magnitude, just a fraction below the 7.0 quake that hit Anchorage Friday.
Much of the impact of an earthquake that would exceed the Nisqually quake revolves around a lack of structural preparedness across Seattle.
“Because we don’t have a big historic catalog of big earthquakes in the Puget Sound area, we have a lot of old, unsafe buildings that have not been retrofit and strengthened yet,” Steele said. “We have a lot of vulnerable infrastructure — even most of our freeway infrastructure was designed in the 1950s, and built in the 60s.”
Steele did note that “WSDOT’s been working very hard to retrofit and improve the performances of the bridges on our main freeways.” Even with that, though, “they’re still vulnerable to big earthquakes — we’re not looking forward to it.”
The hope is that the Shake Alert early warning system in place in Washington will assist in some way, providing people with up to a minute’s warning before an impending quake. And while there’s still a ways to go in getting 100 percent of seismic stations funded (right now it’s at 277 out of 560 total stations), Steele said the state is “making great progress” as it accelerates the process.