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Department of Emergency Management


Press Release Detail

Friday, October 21, 2016  18:46

Issued: Friday, September 24, 2010  00:00

Grays Harbor Earthquake Could Mirror New Zealand

Grays Harbor Earthquake Could Mirror the New Zealand Earthquake
   Could an earthquake in Grays Harbor County mirror the earthquake that impacted the city of Christchurch, New Zealand this week? Believe it or not, we are extremely similar in climate and natural hazards. Both areas are susceptible to flooding, winter storms, high wind and surf events, volcanoes, tsunami  and earthquakes (although more frequent in New Zealand, 14000 compared to  1000 for Washington State).  The cascadia fault for New Zealand is on the East coast and ours is along our West coast. Another similarity is that the epicenter was 19 miles from Christchurch and our Canyon River Fault line appears to travel to within 19 miles of Aberdeen, Cosmopolis, Montesano, Hoquiam and Ocean Shores.
   Three days after the Christchurch 7.0 earthquake, cost estimates for businesses, individuals and insurance companies, have exceeded $2.9 billion dollars. Over 500 city buildings (about 5%) were destroyed yet, miraculously no deaths were reported. Another 19% of the buildings need further evaluation.  Officials claim that the strict building codes and the early morning occurrence contributed to saving many lives. As many as 2 in 3 homes in the region may have been damaged to some degree. Ground liquefaction accounted for some of the damage to the properties.  Power was lost initially and the loss of gas, water and sewer services lasted over 3 days. There are still many remote areas without power, sewer and water but most areas had boil restrictions lifted on Thursday. Countless jobs will be lost. Schools are closed until engineering evaluations are conducted and there are reports of over 300 citizens staying in emergency shelters.
   Over the last 5 days, 280 aftershocks have taken a mental toll on residents with authorities telling them to expect more severe aftershocks. A 5.0 tremor occurred Wednesday morning sending panicked residents into the streets. Medical personnel have reported residents presenting stress and anxiety issues along with gastroenteritis. Related to the stress issues, Police have seen a rise in domestic violence by 53%.
   If the same earthquake impacted Grays Harbor County, could we expect many of the same issues? Will time lines for restoration of communications, power and water in the County be longer due to the fact that the main infrastructure is not centrally located as it was in the City of Christchurch? Will the fact that our highways, roads, cities and towns are built along identified liquefaction areas impact us far greater than in Christchurch? Are we ready as an entire community to deal with the stress issues of not only a severe earthquake, but numerous aftershocks, landslides, loss of home, places of employment and communication?
  No one can predict what would happen but we can prepare ourselves. As seen in Christchurch, there were no deaths attributed to the earthquake. Chances of surviving a major earthquake are far greater than not.  Those prepared, reduce the impact of the event upon their family, pets, business and community significantly. Become Pro-active; learn what to do before, during and after an earthquake.