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Quake shakes Puget Sound area

SATURDAY, JAN. 31, 2009

SEATTLE – There were no immediate reports of damage from a magnitude 4.5 earthquake that rattled the Seattle and Puget Sound area early Friday, but it was a reminder the urban area is sitting on shaky ground.

The quake at 5:25 a.m. was centered 14 miles northwest of Seattle near Kingston, in Kitsap County, at a depth of 36 miles.

The U.S. Geological Survey initially reported it as a 4.6 quake, but a University of Washington report on the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network listed it at 4.5.

The network shows it was felt throughout the Puget Sound area in Western Washington, and people reported feeling it in Victoria, British Columbia, 71 miles to the north.

Seismic Network director John Vidale said the quake was from the same general source as the 6.8 magnitude Nisqually earthquake on Feb. 28, 2001.

That quake, under the Nisqually River delta between Tacoma and Olympia, was the largest quake to shake the area in more than a half-century. It disrupted operations at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and damaged the Capitol in Olympia and buildings and the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle.

Vidale said such quakes are not the type of “megathrust” quake that would cause catastrophic damage on the West Coast. A megathrust quake would involve the breaking of a tectonic plate – a piece of the earth’s outer shell – and would have a magnitude of about 9, he said. The last one happened in the Northwest in 1700.

Small earthquakes are common in the Pacific Northwest. The Friday morning shaker was the largest in Washington since a 4.6 in October 2006 near Mount Rainier.

“It shook the house like something had hit the roof,” said Robert Lyden on Anderson Island south of Tacoma in Puget Sound. “It just woke us up.” Other than knocking a water fountain off his deck there was no damage, he said.

Lacey Menne says it shook her home as she was preparing to go to work at the Coastal Cafe in Kingston.

“It wasn’t strong enough to make anything fall,” she said. “It was like, what is that? I think it might be an earthquake. It’s totally an earthquake!”

Seattle radio and TV stations heard from callers who said they felt the shaking for 10 or 15 seconds.

Others near the epicenter said they didn’t feel anything.

The state Transportation Department sent inspectors to check bridges and overpasses in the region, including the downtown viaduct, but said there were no immediate reports of damage.

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