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Earthquake Education
Historic Earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest

Northwest has a long history of shaking ground
Excerpted from The Oregonian staff and wire reports, Reprinted with permission from The Oregonian

Say earthquake and many Americans immediately think of California. But the Northwest is one of the most seismically active regions in the world and has a history of strong quakes.

Nearly 17,000 earthquakes of magnitude 1.0 to 6.0 have been recorded in Oregon and Washington since 1970. About 15-20 quakes a year are felt in the Northwest. Earthquakes are usually felt if they are at least magnitude 3 to 4.

These are some of the significant earthquakes that have occurred in Washington and Oregon:

February 28, 2001: 35 mile deep intraplate earthquake of magnitude 6.8 shakes the Puget Sound region, damaging the Washington State capitol and causing about $2 billion in damage.

July 2, 1999: magnitude 5.9, centered at Satsop, Wash., severely damaged the Grays Harbor County Courthouse in Montesano, Wash.

Jan. 28, 1995: magnitude 5.0, centered 10 miles southwest of Seattle, no big damage but it was the largest quake to hit the Seattle area in 30 years.

Dec. 4, 1993: magnitude 5.1, centered 10 miles northwest of Klamath Falls, light damage to buildings.

Sept. 20, 1993: magnitude 5.9 and 6.0, 15 miles northwest of Klamath Falls, two deaths and $10 million in damage, including county courthouse.

March 25, 1993: magnitude 5.6, at Scotts Mills southeast of Portland, $30 million in damage, including Molalla High School, a Mount Angel church and the Capitol rotunda in Salem. This remains the most destructive quake in terms of property loss in Oregon's history.

April 29, 1965: magnitude 6.5, Renton, Wash., seven killed and an estimated $50 million in damage, felt over 193,000 square miles of the Northwest and British Columbia.

April 13, 1949: magnitude 7.1, Olympia, eight killed and $150 million in damage in Washington, minor damage in Northwest Oregon. This was the largest and best documented quake in the Northwest and was felt over 230,000 square miles.

Jan. 26, 1700: magnitude of about 9, centered off the Northwest coast, generates a tsunami that struck the Northwest and Japan and destroyed Native American villages along the coast.

Other less destructive Northwest quakes include:

May 2, 1996, magnitude 5.4, centered near Duvall, Wash.

July 12, 1991: magnitude 6.6, 70 miles off the Oregon coast.

March 13, 1985: magnitude 6.1, off Oregon coast, 140 miles west of Coos Bay.

Nov. 22, 1981: magnitude 5.7, centered off Oregon coast.

Nov. 3, 1981: magnitude 6.2, centered off Oregon coast.

Feb. 13, 1981: magnitude 5.5, near Mount St. Helens in southwestern Washington, shakes the Portland area.

Nov. 8, 1980: magnitude 7.0, off the Oregon coast.

Nov. 5, 1962: magnitude 5.2, centered in Vancouver, Wash.

Dec. 16, 1953: magnitude 5.6, shakes Portland area.

Dec. 29, 1941: magnitude 5.6, shakes Portland area.

July 16, 1936: magnitude 5.8, centered in the Milton-Freewater area.

May 13, 1916: estimated magnitude 5.7, centered in Richland, Wash.

March 7, 1893: estimated magnitude 5.7, centered in Umatilla.

Feb. 4, 1892: estimated magnitude 5.6, shakes the Portland area.

Oct. 12, 1877: estimated magnitude 6.7, shakes the Portland area

Pacific Northwest Earthquake Information from the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network (PNSN):

Because the magnitude 5.6 Scotts Mills quake occured over Spring Break, no students were injured when a wall collasped above a main entrance to the school.

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