The clock was approaching midnight Tuesday when Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps awoke in a shaking bed.
“I thought here we go,” said Helps, who immediately knew it was an earthquake. “Before I was fully awake it was over. Then I turned on my phone, looked at Twitter and saw everyone else had felt it too.”
Helps was among many Victoria residents who were jolted out of bed by a small earthquake that briefly rattled homes across much of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. The magnitude 4.3 quake hit at 11:39 p.m. and was centered about eight kilometres east of Sidney. Natural Resources Canada received no reports of significant damage.
Many people took to social media to report what the quake was like. Some felt their beds shake, heard dressers or windows rattle and had small objects tip over, while others slept through the night, unaware anything had even happened. Staff at theVictoria police call centre answered around 40 calls to 911 about the earthquake.
Helps has lived in Victoria for 20 years. The earthquake was the strongest she’s ever felt.
“It was quite scary,” she said, adding the fire department was on it right away, checking to make sure city buildings were secure and nobody was hurt.
“From our end, it was a small test and everything went fairly smoothly.”
The city has policies and produces in place should a powerful earthquake occur. The focus is now on making sure citizens and businesses are prepared to handle a disaster.
A typical earthquake kit includes a battery powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, a whistle to signal for help, small first aid kit, cellphone with charger, cash in small bills, garbage bags, a dust mask, a local map with a family meeting place identified, seasonal clothing and footwear, and a three-day supply of food and water. A “grab-and-go” bag should also be created for work and vehicles.
Helps hopes the quake is a wake up call for those who don’t already have kits. She has enough supplies in hers for 10 days.
“It’s important to think about what you’re going to need in an emergency,” said Helps, adding she has a bottle of bleach in a mason jar in case water needs to be purified.
“After the last one, which was maybe two or three years ago, we did a whole bunch of research and just got ready….For me, it’s top of mind.”
According to the city’s website, Victoria has a one in three (32 per cent) probability of a damaging earthquake in the next 50 years and is also prone to tsunamis. If an earthquake lasts for more than 60 seconds or is so strong that it is difficult to stand, people in low-lying coastal areas are advised to move to higher ground.
Tuesday’s tremor was the biggest quake to be felt in the region since a 6.8 quake rocked Washington State in 2001, causing some property damage in Seattle. The two largest quakes ever recorded in B.C. have both been centred near Haida Gwaii — an 8.1 magnitude quake in 1949 that remains Canada’s strongest since 1700 and a 7.7 quake in 2012.
SFU Geologist Brent Ward said the shaking Tuesday 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.
Larger crustal quakes in the six to seven range hit every 50 to 60 years in B.C. A 7.2 crustal quake occurred near Courtenay in 1946 and caused extensive landslides, soil liquefaction and damage to brick buildings.
For more information on emergency kits visit the PreparedBC or PrepareVictoria websites.
– with files from Jeff Nagel