Benign Earthquake Shakes Up Seattle
"I was on the phone with a friend from New York, giving him a play-by-ply from a doorway," said Paul Pollets of Advanced Radiant Technology. "I watched as my car jumped 6 inches off the ground, and utility poles swayed."
Though the quake rocked and rolled the ground for 45 seconds, shaking bricks from chimneys and causing structural damage to hundreds of buildings, Pollets was happy to report that all the radiant installations the company had performed stood firm; the flexible PEX did its job.
Despite the quake's serious magnitude, the state Emergency Management Division tallied just 272 people with quake-related injuries. Damage was primarily structural. Power was cut to 200,000 units in the western part of the state for only a day or so.
Several major businesses were affected by the quake, including jet-maker Boeing Co., Seattle-based Alaska Airlines Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Starbucks Corp. They closed down offices to assess damages to buildings and operations. The state's 74-year-old Capitol building received a damaging crack in one of its pillars. The building rises 287 ft. and is one of the world's largest masonry domes. Gov. Gary Locke reported that the Governor's Mansion received cracked walls, and books and pictures flew off the walls when the quake hit.
More than two dozen tourists swayed at 600 ft. above the city in the Space Needle, which was built in 1962 to handle a quake magnitude of 9.1.
"Business-wise, any licensed plumber would have a field day. We sold three earthquake valves for gas mains in the first 24 hours," Pollets said.
Building codes require structures to be able to withstand certain amounts of movement, and other codes require all water heaters to be strapped to a wall. "It just goes to show how benign this major earthquake was in this age of modern construction," Pollets observed. "But we're all aware of what could have happened with an earthquake of this magnitude. I feel very humbled."