Monday, February 28, 2011

shake, rattle and roll

"Where were you 10 years ago today ?" 

I've been hearing this question non-stop on the local news since this morning. Where was I 10 years ago, around 11:00 a.m. ?  I was sitting through a booooooooring staff meeting in a conference room at the UW, on a skybridge about 3 stories up.  I wasn't the only one thinking "what do we have to do to get this god-awful thing to end ?' - believe me.  Suddenly, the light fixtures above us started to rain down on our tables and the room began to sway.  Then all those things we learned during the umpteen practice disaster drills we'd been subjected to went out the proverbial window and all hell broke loose.   Some people ran, some got under tables (hey - we did learn one thing), some yelled, some froze in silence.  All kidding aside, it was pretty surreal.  

Dan was in the bathtub at home when the quake struck.  With shampoo still in his hair and a towel around him, he scooped up the cat and ran outside.  That must have been a sight.  

10 years later, the city is still recovering.  Some positive developments since the 2001 quake include: 

  • Refinement of hazard maps and models to give better estimates of the shaking expected in future earthquakes.
  • Documentation of new faults. The Seattle and Price Lake (Olympic Peninsula) faults were known in 2001. Several others have been documented since, including Tacoma, Frigid Creek, Canyon River, South Whidbey Island (which probably has had the largest previous quakes), Utsalady and, in eastern Washington, Ellensburg and Umtanum Ridge.
  • Shake maps and “Did You Feel It” reporting available to the public automatically within 10 minutes of larger earthquakes.
  • Building code changes based on improvements in seismic engineering and adoption of the International Building Code, with standards linked to the best seismic science.
  • Increased public awareness and preparedness.
  • Discovery of episodic tremor and slip, or slow-slip. These unfelt events happen about every 15 months, last for several weeks and release as much energy as a magnitude 6.5 earthquake. They are adding to an already complex regional seismic picture.
  • Improved and more numerous broadband seismometers to see earthquakes clearly over the entire region.

( file)

(Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

(Tom Reese/The Seattle Times)

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