ANNIVERSARY: 20 years since Nisqually Earthquake; one preparedness step to take right now to prepare for the next quake

Exactly 20 years ago, at 10:54 am February 28, 2001, West Seattle and the rest of the region was shaken in a big way by what went into the history books as the Nisqually Earthquake, after its South Sound epicenter. The magnitude 6.8 quake was big but not The Big One – that is considered to be still likely someday, maybe in our lifetimes, maybe not. But you need to be ready – there are abundant reasons why, such as what’s shown on this USGS map of how the area stacks up in shaking risk; note that some parts of West Seattle are considered at higher risk than others.

Meantime, preparedness remains vital. Every time there’s an anniversary, we remind you that a single, simple action you can take is to know your nearest Hub:

Shown on that map are the Emergency Communications Hubs – community-powered, pre-planned locations you would go in case of major catastrophe, if regular communication channels were disrupted. Be sure you and your family know the closest one. If there’s not one anywhere near your neighborhood, you can organize one – start here. Quakes are still happening – usually too small to feel (check this map for the most-recent ones) – but still without warning; even though an “early warning” tool is in development, it would give you seconds at best.

P.S. So where were you when the Nisqually Quake hit?

10 Replies to "ANNIVERSARY: 20 years since Nisqually Earthquake; one preparedness step to take right now to prepare for the next quake"

  • Hillary February 28, 2021 (11:40 am)

    I remember it like it was yesterday! I was at my desk in the old Boeing customer service building (now uhaul?).

  • trickycoolj February 28, 2021 (11:43 am)

    I was in high school in the Olympia area. Our school was maybe a mile or two from the Nisqually epicenter. The ceilings buckled in the locker rooms and the walls to the pool building also buckled. We missed a few days of school while the building was red tagged and inspected. Several friends had their street clothes, purses and car keys locked in the too dangerous to enter locker room because they were in gym class (have spares at home!!) We stood outside in the cold on the football field for hours. Most of us with no coats on since we couldn’t get to our lockers before evacuating. The school wouldn’t dismiss us until the regular day ended which meant 4 hours outside until the buses came even though we had open campus. The registrar would only let someone pick you up and sign you out if they were on your paper emergency card. My mom was at work, my dad was on a business trip, my grandma and grandpa were in Grays Harbor county and my little useless 1¢ 30min a month US West cell phone had no service and no one had power. My friends mom took me home with her and told the registrar to stuff it. I couldn’t leave a message at home where I was because the power was out. Couldn’t call mom at work since she worked in a factory. Called grandma our “designated” contact and told her I was inside and warming up at friend’s house if mom called. Keep your kids’ emergency contact info updated in even in high school. Have some logical alternates listed for pickups.  Have a central family contact out of state/out of area to check in with in case phone lines are jammed.  Make sure you have your keys/wallet/purse on you in your workplace or school. Have spare keys at home.  Lots of people evacuated without critical belongings at school and work and couldn’t get home. 

  • bill February 28, 2021 (1:40 pm)

    A lot of houses in West Seattle were built during the period when it was not required to fasten the building to the foundation – roughly late ’40s to sometime in the ’70s – maybe someone with better knowledge can post the exact years. If you’ve got the money, it is well worthwhile hiring a contractor to bolt your house down. A great deal of damage occurred in the Northridge and Loma Prieta earthquakes because houses slid off of their foundations.

    • Ryan March 1, 2021 (7:01 am)

      Typically, anything built before 1980 has no anchoring or shear paneling. 

  • Al King February 28, 2021 (1:41 pm)

    I’d just left Admiral Safeway when it hit. What’s SUPER FUNNY is that i needed to go back the next day and saw they’d been WIPED OUT of bottled water and batteries(other things also)!!!. Clerk was laughing that AFTER the quake hit people came rushing in to stock up on their emergency supplies!!!   

    • WSB February 28, 2021 (2:25 pm)

      Not funny, really, as quakes tend to be followed by aftershocks. My first big quake was Sylmar (my family lived in the San Fernando Valley at the time of that one, 50 years ago this month) and we were in on-edge mode for weeks afterward. I remember going to the store and my mom buying bottled water, and I remember her keeping us home from school many days so we wouldn’t be apart if a big aftershock hit.

      Meantime, I also happened to be in SoCal for the Northridge quake in 1994 – we were visiting for a friend’s wedding. For Nisqually, I was in a TV station job interview in South Lake Union, talking with the general manager – also a former Los Angeles resident – when it hit. That ended the interview (though I did get the job); I made it back to WS before they closed The Viaduct for inspection. Side note for that date in history – though that station didn’t have a midday newscast, holdover morning-show crews were in place ready to go live downtown because, right about the time the quake hit, there was a scheduled news conference about the aftermath of the Mardi Gras riot … TR

  • Millie February 28, 2021 (2:12 pm)

    At the time, working on the 4th floor of the King County Courthouse (County Executive/Budget Office).  Initially heard a loud noise  similar to a steel plate being dropped at a road construction site.  The next second the cubical partitions started swaying,  falling items.  Needless to say, we  were instructed to leave the building.  One exit stairwell, wall collapsed.   The other wall cracked with water streaming down.  The courthouse was evacuated and closed for several days.  Driving home through Pioneer Square I was astonished to see buildings/structures damaged on one side of the street, the other no noticeable damage.   Managed to get to Mt. St. Vincent (35th Avenue) to pick-up my Dad, they did not feel the shaking and were unaware of the earthquake.  Mother Nature does have her idiosyncrasies!

  • Just wondering February 28, 2021 (3:31 pm)

    Was working at Boeing in Renton.  When the quake hit I was not at my desk and had to exit through the nearest door.  Unfortunately my purse, with my house and car keys, was in the desk.  My manager went back in later and carried out several purses (mine included) on his extended arms!  I never go anywhere now without my house and car keys in my pocket!  And I told any new hires at Boeing to do the same!

  • Pessoa February 28, 2021 (4:39 pm)

    A decent little “rattler.”   Northridge, CA.  Now, that was a real earthquake.  

  • Al King February 28, 2021 (4:52 pm)

    WSB. What makes it funny for me is the illustration that no matter how much is said most people are TOTALLY UNPREPARED and UNWILLING TO PREPARE for a large destructive earthquake which WILL happen. The ones doing the least preparation will be the loudest crying “woe is me! help me!”  

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