Yukon News

Pair of earthquakes rattles Whitehorse

Lori Garrison, Chris Windeyer and Ashley Joannou Monday May 1, 2017

Angie Dickson/Yukon News


Dirt rolls down the clay cliffs across from Canadian Tire during this morning's earthquake in Whitehorse.


Residents in the southern Yukon were jolted awake by a pair of earthquakes that struck the Yukon, B.C. and Alaska May 1.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported a 6.2-magnitude quake just after 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time and another of 6.3 around 7:18. The epicenter of the two main quakes was approximately 85 km northwest of Skagway. There have been numerous aftershocks.

The government said no injuries have been reported.

Power was disrupted for approximately 8,000 residents in the Southern Lakes, Carcross and Tagish areas and some parts of Whitehorse. ATCO Electric Yukon said it had restored power to most residents by 7:15 a.m., only to briefly lose power again when the second quake hit. Power was fully restored to Whitehorse by 8 a.m. and to Teslin shortly before 11 a.m.

Some structural damage has been reported at the Lynn Building in downtown Whitehorse, which has visible cracks to its exterior. The building was evacuated and is currently closed.

Yukon Energy has inspected its dams and LNG facility and found no structural issues, said spokesperson Janet Patterson.

Several local businesses suffered minor damage.

“It shook pretty hard out there,” said Lee Willet, who owns the Cutoff restaurant outside Whitehorse. “Lots of bottles fell, luckily most were plastic. We lost a few decorative old bottles and in our front room a lot of glassware came down and smashed.”

The quake shook toys and other products fall from shelves of Angelina’s Toy Boutique at Horwoods Mall in downtown Whitehorse, but staff have since cleaned things up. Nothing was damaged.

“We had a few things displaced,” said owner Betty Burns. “It just needed a quick tidy.”

Mike Thomas/Yukon News


Mike Thomas/Yukon News The Lynn Building on Steele Street is closed today to due some structural damage from Monday's earthquakes.

Shaking could be felt as far away as Juneau, reported the Juneau Empire.

“A 6.3, 6.4, 6.5 magnitude quake like this one, it’s scary as hell if you’re right on top of it,” said Michael West, a seismologist at the geophysical institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

It’s not only the scale of an earthquake which determines its severity and impact, West said, but the population density and type of buildings in the area the quake occurs in. The May 1 quakes were the same magnitude as ones that killed 250 people in Italy last August, he said.

“It’s all about location,” he said. “Had this morning’s quake occurred directly under Whitehorse things would be very different. People need to be respectful of a quake this size.”

The quake occurred along the Denali Fault, a “well known fault structure,” in northwestern Canada and Alaska,” West said. Quakes are common along the coast of British Columbia and into Alaska along the Denali Fault, but are less frequent and severe further inland.

“The location is not a surprise,” he said, “but they’re fairly infrequent (at this magnitude).”

Yukon Protective Services tweeted that the Department of Highways and Public Works will be checking roads and bridges for structural damage.

Elijah Smith School in Whitehorse was closed for the day while the building was inspected by structural engineers.

The school reopened May 2 except for the library which opened a day later.

Whitehorse Elementary students played outside for the morning. Classes resumed after engineers gave the all-clear.

The Department of Education said Ross River school is still closed due to cracks in the foundation. It is expected to be inspected today.

Officials don’t know whether the earthquakes caused the cracks to appear, or if they were caused by other events, such as frost heaving, said Scott Milton, acting assistant manager of property management with Highways and Public Works.

The school will remain closed until it can be assessed, Milton said.

“We can’t comment on how long it will be closed until after the assessment,” he said.

Cracks appeared in St. Elias School in Haines Junction, but the school has been cleared to reopen by Highways and Public Works.

The Department of Community Services said the Blanchard River highway camp, on the Yukon-B.C. border and close to the quake epicentre, was damaged and is closed.

The quake broke a few dishes and caused minor damage to pipes resulting in some spilled glycol, but the roads in the area remain “in good shape,” said Clint Ireland, director of transportation maintenance with HPW.

Community Services Minister John Streicker said in the legislature that Highways and Public Works crews would be conducting aerial surveys to check the South Klondike and Haines roads for structural damage.

The threat of landslides or avalanches in the along the Haines Highway is “very real,” West said.

With files from Chris Windeyer and Ashley Joannou

Contact Lori Garrison at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

This story was last updated May 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm


Cookie wrote:
1:08pm Tuesday May 2, 2017

Just curious…Do you think the play structures in school yards and in parks should have been checked?  Sounds good that students were sent out until inspections were done but they were sent to play on unchecked structures.  Also, the students were in school and class had started then, they were asked to go outside after parents voiced their concerns.

Dave wrote:
12:21pm Tuesday May 2, 2017

Nikki, the entire west coast is an earthquake zone from California to Alaska, Vancouver is preparing for a big one to hit there it’s just a matter of when. As far as Yukoners go my parents easily remember the Alaska 1964 earthquake that shook Whitehorse pretty good as well at the time, I remember a pretty good quake in 1979 and a somwhat smaller one in 2005 if memory serves me correctly on those years.

nikki wrote:
11:35pm Monday May 1, 2017

Just relocated here last week!  I had no idea we were in an earthquake zone.  I asked around and it seems many longtime Yukoners were as surprised as I was by this morning’s events.  I’m in a new home and the only damage sustained was to my nerves ... I have a new respect for earthquakes. The earth literally “shook under my feet”.

Pasi Lathinen wrote:
9:11pm Monday May 1, 2017

About the priorities. Common sense dictates that buildings and any dangerous constructions are priorities, as they can cause death and injury after the fact. For access the major access roads belongs to that croup. After the important areas are covered then there are issues that some might think important for their point of view, but really aren’t because those would be personal preferences and moving out to areas that are in suspect shouldn’t be in the list to do now. If there are areas that need to be checked by owners of animals example, then those in need should ask assistance and information how to proceed. Animals and property is really less important than people and their immediate safety. Going to visit somebody is even further on the list and if there is medical emergency there are proper ways to address those situations.

Alan wrote:
8:08pm Monday May 1, 2017

I agree with ATVer. The city considers our needs the highest priority for trail planning.

Walkers are generally safe but we challenge the environment. We need safe trails where we play and we pay taxes and buy gas and get our machines serviced.

People who walk to not contribute much to our society.

The environmental damage we do and the noise is overstated by birdwatchers ans walkers.

Kathryn wrote:
7:14pm Monday May 1, 2017

Prayers for the safety and well-being of those affected by the quakes.

atver wrote:
3:54pm Monday May 1, 2017

PLEASE GET OUT AND CHECK out our trails for damage. This should be a priority for city and emergency staff.

We should not be put in a dangerous position when we go along or over the clay cliffs or go on trails trails alongside water.

anonymous wrote:
2:29pm Monday May 1, 2017

I heard sirens immediately after which made me think there was some danger from oil tanks getting disconnected but other than being scary nothing was damaged.

Boogereater wrote:
1:18pm Monday May 1, 2017

@drum I am sure the biggest casualty will be the public purse. Just imagine the stress related claims that come from this. Especially those that have benifits!! Lol

drum wrote:
11:30am Monday May 1, 2017

Wake up call for Yukoners’..  I am sure that our great Emergency people were immediately active and checking everything to ensure our safety.  Thank you!

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