The most recent earthquake was a 2.4 magnitude quak which struck about seven kilometres northwest of Langford on March 5. (istock photo)

Series of small earthquakes no cause for concern, says expert

UVic professor says residents should still be prepared

A University of Victoria professor says the handful of earthquakes that have hit the Greater Victoria area in the past few months are no cause for concern.

“These earthquakes are not a surprise in that we live in a tectonic plate boundary setting. We live on top of a subduction zone where the Pacific Plate is being subducted underneath North America,” said Edwin Nissen, an associate professor in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria.

“The stress is building up and those eventually result in earthquakes. Those include rare, very large earthquakes, but also rather common earthquakes.”

RELATED: Small earthquake rattles southern Vancouver Island

In the past several weeks, three earthquakes of note have struck the West Coast. In January, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the Alaskan coast, triggering a tsunami warning for the coast of B.C., including parts of Greater Victoria. Just a few weeks later, a 2.8 magnitude earthquake was felt in Sidney and throughout Greater Victoria.

More recently on March 5, a 2.4 magnitude earthquake struck about seven kilometres northwest of Langford around 10:06 p.m., and was felt in Victoria, Sooke and many parts of the West Shore.

There have also been several smaller quakes near Sooke and in the State of Washington.

Nissen said small earthquakes (ones that are roughly 2 to 3 magnitudes) may be occurring for a few reasons.

“All earthquakes on Vancouver Island occur because of the stresses caused by the eastward motion of the Pacific sea-floor relative to the North American plate,” he said. “The Pacific sea-floor is sliding underneath Vancouver Island. The largest earthquakes occur on the interface between the two plates, but the stresses also cause smaller earthquakes within the overriding plate (North America) as well as within the subducting Pacific plate.”

RELATED: Tsunami warning an ‘exercise in precaution’

While Nissen said the earthquakes are not an indication that the ‘Big One’ could happen anytime soon, they do serve as reminders to be prepared for emergencies in the future.

“In this part of the world, people should always be concerned about earthquakes and people should do the simple steps that can ensure that if and when a large earthquake strikes, your property, your life the lives of your loved ones are safe,” he said.

“I view them as a reminder to us all that we live in a setting where we can experience very large earthquakes and therefore we should make sure that we’re prepared.”

Households should have emergency plans and kits ready to grab at a moment’s notice. Emergency Management B.C. said kits should include ready-to-eat food and water, flashlights and batteries, a radio, seasonal clothing, medications, a small First-Aid kit, and whistle, among other things.


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