British Columbia’s Seismic History – Part 1

Kelsey Bay Highway, north of Campbell River
Kelsey Bay Highway, north of Campbell River

BC has a history as Canada’s hub of seismic activity. Out of the top ten earthquakes to occur in Canada, five of them happened in BC.

While we know about “the big one”—the overdue subduction quake that is supposed to happen every 500 years or so—less of our British Columbian population seems to be aware of the lesser “crustal quakes” that occur more often.  According to geologist John G. Clague, this is what we can expect from lesser magnitude quakes:

  • a magnitude 7 quake every 40-50 years
  • a magnitude 6 quake every 20 years
  • a magnitude 5 quake every 5 years

Of course, this is only an estimate. But for those of us living in BC, it shows us how very likely it is that we’ll experience an earthquake in some capacity—if we haven’t already.

BC’s last quake to cause major destruction was the Courtenay Quake of 1946. It was a 7.3 magnitude quake, which caused the deaths of two people and over 300 landslides.

Today, if a similar sized quake were to occur, it would cause damage estimated at between $17 billion and $40 billion.

The violent ground-shaking that comes with massive earthquakes makes sand, gravel and soil liquefy. This destroys their bearing capacity so they will no longer support heavy structures such as homes and other buildings. Hi-rise buildings would collapse. You could expect landslides to occur in numerous locations.

Essentially, Vancouver and Vancouver Island would be cut off. Highways, railways, docks and bridges would be compromised or otherwise unusable. Power lines would be down and, if water sources were still intact, the water would surely be contaminated by the landslides.

This is why it’s so important to think now about what it means to be self-sufficient…

  1. Talk to people about their earthquake plan, and compare notes and build up and strengthen your own plan.
  2. Get yourself an earthquake kit.
  3. Read some books on foraging and even practice your edible plant identification skills!

Why not create a summer challenge for yourself? Taking action eliminates fear, while truly increasing your chances of survival!

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