Overnight quake the strongest felt in 14 years on B.C.’s South Coast
Published Wednesday, December 30, 2015 12:07AM PST Last Updated Wednesday, December 30, 2015 6:49PM PST
Seismologists are calling the earthquake that rattled B.C.’s South Coast overnight, jolting many people out of bed, the strongest felt in the region in more than a decade.
Homes shook, pictures fell off walls and chandeliers swayed as the quake struck about 20 minutes before midnight Tuesday, startling people across Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island.
“I was sitting in my chair in the living room and there was this boom… like a car had hit the house,” said Vancouver resident Darren Birch.
“We figured out it was an earthquake pretty darn quick.”
Earthquakes Canada said the shaker, which hit near Victoria at a depth of 41 kilometres, was a magnitude 4.3, though the U.S. Geological Survey registered it as a 4.8.
John Cassidy, a seismologist with Natural Resources Canada, said those numbers are subject to change slightly, but one thing is certain: the quake was felt on the South Coast more than any other since 2001.
“It was felt by thousands and thousands of people,” Cassidy said.
There have been bigger earthquakes off the coast in recent years, but they were far enough away that they had little impact on residents, he added.
Despite how alarming it was, last night’s quake was still only in the light-moderate range. No injuries or serious property damage were reported and Earthquakes Canada said none would be expected from a shaker of that size.
“Compared to these large earthquakes, last night was just a tiny drop in the bucket,” Cassidy said.
The 4.3 magnitude quake caused about 10 seconds of shaking, about a third as long as a magnitude 7 would generate, according to experts.
The shaking from a magnitude 9 wouldn’t let up for about five minutes.
“You never know if it’s one of these small earthquakes with a few seconds of shaking or if that’s going to continue,” Cassidy said. “So it’s quite frightening.”
Tuesday’s quake doesn’t suggest anything about when “The Big One” will strike, Cassidy added, but it should still serve as a reminder for families to get prepared.
After the earthquake hit, TransLink shut down the Millennium and Expo SkyTrain lines to determine whether any damage had been caused to the raised guideways.
None was found, and the lines were opened up shortly before 1 a.m.
“This was out of an abundance of caution,” spokeswoman Anne Drennan said. “We have a plan in place, an operational plan for just this kind of thing.”
BC Hydro said there were no impacts on its operations, and that its transmission and distribution systems were fine after the quake.
Many people called 911 after it struck, and on Wednesday Emergency Info BC urged the public to avoid tying up those lines unless there’s a threat to safety.
Earthquake experiences can instead be registered through the Earthquakes Canada website.