Laurie Dingler | Shaking the North Coast at the end of 2022 and a seismic tickle – Times-Standard
Thursday was Great ShakeOut and over 9.6 million Californians were registered. The population of the North Coast has crossed 68,000, a whopping 23% increase from last year. A toast to all the individuals, families, schools, businesses, and other organizations who have practiced what to do during the earthquake.
My ShakeOut has been subdued this year. Not under the table for me because I still have a few months to go before my new knee gives me that luxury. But that didn’t stop me from grabbing a pillow and placing it over my head and neck when the pretend ShakeOut earthquake arrived.
You have received three ShakeOut notifications. The first was from MyShake, which alerted my cell phone that the California Earthquake Warning System was being tested. For MyShake, the annual ShakeOut workout is a birthday party. The California Severe Vibration Alert System has been officially released for public use on ShakeOut day 2019.
The second alert was from the Humboldt County Emergency Notification Network, an automated system that sends messages to phones and emails. I received real notification from the system in January after the volcanic eruption in Tonga and the potential threat of a tsunami to our coast. I replied by replying with a text message yes I did get the alert. On the North Coast, the annual ShakeOut exercise in October and the Tsunami Communications test in March provide opportunities to test the system to ensure it is working properly.
If you didn’t receive these alerts on Thursday, then most likely you didn’t sign up. MyShake and the boycott alert system both require you to register. MyShake works on Android and iPhone mobile platforms. It won’t turn on automatically – you need to enable Location Services for it to work. Every county in California has a notification system – Humboldt’s is at https://humboldtgov.org/2014/Emitical-Notifications for registration. If you do not wish to negotiate the web platform, simply call the OES County at 707-268-2500.
The third was from KMUD Radio. KMUD staff have been very active in earthquake/tsunami awareness for decades. In the 1990s, after an event, the first phone call was usually from Estelle Fennell, KMUD’s director of news for many years. The current KMUD news staff has continued this tradition. KMUD was one of several California radio stations broadcasting ShakeOut, cutting regular programming to announce that the exercises were taking place.
How did Humboldt County perform? You can find a list of registered participants at https://www.shakeout.org/california/participants.php? The largest participating category was K-12 schools. This comes as no surprise because California schools are required to conduct earthquake drills and most incorporate them into ShakeOut. Colleges were the second largest group. They weren’t assigned to do the exercises but both Cal Poly Humboldt and the College of the Redwoods have been supporters of ShakeOut from the start.
A shout out to a few other groups that have stepped up to the plate this year. Nearly 2,000 medical and other health groups have been registered, a fourfold increase from a decade ago. Humboldt County had the largest tribal involvement in the state – the hooray for the Blue Lake Rancheria, the Hoopa Valley Tribe, and the Yurok tribe.
But we still lag behind in a number of important areas. Kudos to American AgCredit – they were the only commercial participants this year. I cannot overemphasize the importance of earthquake preparedness to business. Nearly 80% of small businesses in areas affected by the strong tremor in the 1994 Northridge earthquake ceased operations two years later. Protecting your employees and customers should be a top priority.
I was also disappointed with the poor participation of the higher facilities. In disaster after disaster, the elderly are often the hardest hit. As a member of this demographic, I take it personally. Staff and residents of nursing homes and living centers for seniors need to know what to do in any disaster. Sharing ShakeOut isn’t a complete solution, but it’s a start.
North Coast residents have a certain reason to participate in ShakeOut. We have more earthquakes than any other part of the similar 48 states. Not only do we have frequent earthquakes, but we are also on top of the only fault system in the lower 48 that is capable of producing a magnitude 9 earthquake. If we add this to a rural population linked by fragile roads and bridges, we are very likely to be cut off from each other and from resources when an earthquake hits.
It’s easy to get into a rut of “the last earthquake didn’t do any damage, so I should be fine.” The next earthquake will not be like the last one, and here on the North Coast we have more different types of earthquakes and more earthquake sources than almost anywhere else. Mother Nature gave us a little taste of our early morning ShakeOut types of earthquakes. At 12:55 a.m. local time, 4.3 fell near the Humboldt Trinity County border about halfway between Hayfork and Redway.
The earthquake was felt in South Humboldt and a few distances from them as far as Eureka, but it did not cause any damage. It was an interesting earthquake because of its location, depth, and fault type. Most of our earthquakes are fairly shallow, less than ten miles below the surface. Thursday’s earthquake was 20 miles deep. And unlike most earthquakes we see that are caused by compression, this was an extended earthquake.
Thursday’s earthquake is a “lower tension” earthquake. The earthquake was deep because it was in the Gorda Plate. The Gorda Plate is slowly lowering under the north coast, by gravity. The top of the plate is stuck along the Cascadia subduction zone, but gravity continues to descend on the bottom of the plate. The result is stress and earthquakes like 4.3. It is an indication that the subduction zone is active.
I can’t predict the next earthquake in the North Coast, but I’m sure it will be different from the last one. Reducing risks and knowing what to do when they occur will make a difference in how it affects you.
Note: An overview of the different types of earthquakes in the North Coast is available at https://bit.ly/3F61u6V.
Laurie Dingler is Professor Emeritus of Geology at Cal Poly Humboldt, and an expert in tsunami and earthquake hazards. Questions or comments about this column, or want a free copy of Preparedness magazine “Living on Shaken Earth”? Leave a message at 707-826-6019 or email Kamome@humboldt.edu.
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