Geologist Brent Ward

Geologist Brent Ward

Minor quake big wake up call

Small earthquake that briefly rattled homes across much of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland

Jeff NagelBlack Press

Many B.C. residents were jolted awake late Tuesday night, Dec. 29, by a small earthquake that briefly rattled homes across much of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. But what might have been the outcome if the quake was moved closer to Victoria or Vancouver, and closer to the surface?

The magnitude 4.3 quake at 11:39 p.m. was centered about eight kilometres east of Sidney, between Victoria and Vancouver, according to Earthquakes Canada.

The shaker lasted for just several seconds but stirred fears that it could just be the start of a much more serious quake, or might be followed by significant aftershocks. Neither scenario materialized. Nor was any tsunami warning issued.

Social media was deluged with individual reports of what the quake felt like, with some saying they first thought a vehicle slammed into their home.

Natural Resources Canada said it had received no reports of significant damage and none would be expected.

Many people felt their beds shake, heard dressers or windows rattle, and many small objects in homes were tipped over.

SFU geologist Brent Ward, who chairs the university’s earth sciences department, said it was a crustal earthquake about 50 to 60 kilometres beneath the surface.

Crustal quakes are much more common and closer to populated areas than massive 8.0-plus subduction zone quakes – often dubbed the Big One – that strike every few hundred years well off the west coast and would cause far-reaching damage.

“Of a bigger concern are these crustal earthquakes because we get them in a much higher frequency,” Ward said.

He said larger crustal quakes than last night’s – in the 6 to 7 range – hit every 50 or 60 years in B.C. and the next one could be severe if it’s closer to the surface and near large numbers of people.

“If it was only 10 kilometres deep the shaking would have been a lot more intense,” Ward said.

A 7.2 crustal quake near Courtenay in 1946 caused extensive landslides, soil liquefaction and damage to brick buildings.

Ward noted B.C.’s population at risk is much larger now.

“You can imagine if we got a 7.2 earthquake underneath a populated part of Vancouver Island, there would be significant damage and there would definitely be fatalities.”

When B.C. released its new earthquake response plan earlier this year it did not model its worst-case scenario on a megathrust subduction zone quake, but rather shallow crustal earthquakes directly under our big cities.

The result: an estimated 10,000 dead in Metro Vancouver, 128,000 seriously injured and 30 per cent of buildings receiving extensive damage in the event of a 7.3 magnitude crustal quake directly beneath Vancouver.

A similar scenario of a 7.0 quake beneath Victoria yielded an estimate of up to 1,500 dead and 19,000 injured.

 

Just Posted

A conceptual rendering of the commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith/June 15 Council Agenda)
Rocky Creek commercial plaza passes public hearing

The proposed plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road would bring commercial activity to Ladysmith’s north end

Kate Cram and her team at Old Town Ice Cream are thrilled to be open for business. (Cole Schisler photo)
Old Town Ice Cream opens up right on time for summer

Located at 539 1st Avenue, Old Time Ice Cream is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Volunteers Alex Cook, Ron Dashwood, and Bill Drysdale have been hard at work restoring the old Ladysmith train station. (Cole Schisler photo)
Train station restoration on track for future community open house

Community is asked to give feedback on what they think the best use is for the station

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in South Island parkland

These birds don’t often touch down on their way between northern B.C. and Mexico

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Most Read