Shaking a reminder of '46 quake

This view of Landslide Lake and Mt. Colonel Foster shows, even 66 years later, the mark of a “freshwater tsunami” after an earthquake caused half of  the mountain to slide into the lake. - Photo submitted
This view of Landslide Lake and Mt. Colonel Foster shows, even 66 years later, the mark of a “freshwater tsunami” after an earthquake caused half of the mountain to slide into the lake.
— image credit: Photo submitted

By Catherine Temple

Special to MidWeek


Saturday evening I was working at my computer, when I heard the tinkling of the Feng Shui chimes in my kitchen.

It was a strange sound, as I was alone in the house with my two cats, and my dog, so I got up to investigate and the chimes were gently swinging back and forth.  A rather pleasant sound I must say, albeit somewhat disturbing as to the reason.

I then noticed the Tiffany lamp in the entrance hall swinging back and forth, and the same thing for the lamp in the dining room.  It struck me we were having an earthquake. Obviously not a big one, but it did go on for more than just a few seconds.

The next morning I read on line that there was a 7.7 in Haida Gwaii. Well now that is something to worry about. Haida Gwaii is only 450 kilometres north of us.  We’ve all heard the stories about the big one coming our way, or we have seen on the news the devastating effect even a 6.5 can perform on the unsuspecting. Disconcerting, considering this is not the only warning we have received in recent years.

Was it not at this time last year that we felt the ground moving? There wasn’t too much reported damage done, the schools were evacuated and a friend of mine’s chimney separated from her house, that was just a little expensive to rectify, but it certainly was not life threatening.  But it could have been.

Take it up a few notches; position the epicenter closer to home on a 7.7, that’s a big one, or mirror the devastating earthquake that rocked Strathcona Park, with devastation raining all the way to Read Island in 1946 at 7.2.

When Strathcona Park was shaken and it was not the first time; millions of tons of rock broke away from one of the 7,000 foot peaks of Mount Colonel Foster and avalanched down the side of the mountain, landing in what is now called Landslide Lake. Rock and debris filled the lake and overflowed the banks, creating a fresh water tidal wave that breached the shoreline and thundered down the Elk River Valley, carrying with it thousands of tons of trees, bushes and rock. You can still witness the effects of that quake today. Here we are 60 years later and this episode lays testament to the devastation an earthquake can cause, it also makes for an interesting hike along the Elk River Trail.

On Read Island it was a different story: there was a small but established settlement on Read in 1946, an even bigger settlement than Campbell River at the time.

Although it was mostly fields, barns and outbuildings that suffered the damage; families were devastated. Barns were ripped apart, orchards destroyed, with fruit trees collapsing into holes and disappearing. Huge sections of gently sloping, fertile farm land dropped away, leaving deep chasms filled with sticky blue clay; roots were exposed and trees teetered on the brink of deep fissures in the earth.

Geysers spewed blue clay, coating stumps and trees, while in other sites, clay rose slowly under great pressure only to recede, leaving the ground saturated with blue mud. In neighbouring Campbell River the effects were also felt, with liquefaction of the lowlands and geysers in the estuary, when the shaking was done, there was but one chimney left standing.

Is this a harbinger of latent devastation to come?  Is there a tremor lurking in our future that may lay havoc on our region? Chances are: Yes there is. The real question is. Are you ready for it?

This past March we witnessed the most disastrous wind storm in recent history. Calamitous? Yes. Potentially deadly? Yes. Pay attention this is important.

Imagine yourself standing on the sidewalk (not under the hydro wires and away from the gas lines that you already turned off) on a very dark night such as Saturday night, in the pouring rain, you have escaped harm and your kids are at your side, all your animals are safe but your house is in ruin. Now what? It was a torrential downpour Saturday night, and darn cold at about three degrees, do you have a coat, do the kids have coats, where is your phone, how far spread is the damage? Is the family together? Are you on any medication, is it with you or buried? And what next? Do you even know? Because when it happens it is too late to do the planning.

Get ready, and get ready today, it doesn’t take much to put together an emergency plan, start a box, I use a rubbermaid tote and it is full of everything I may need and probably more, including food and necessities for my animals. The kit is accessible (in an outbuilding) and it very well may save my  life, or someone’s else’s life. Take a look at the Earthquake Preparedness pages on and follow the program. Know where your closest emergency shelter is, make sure the rest of your family knows where to meet you if they cannot get ahold of you. Take one of the seminars given by the Emergency Services Department, the information you need is all there and it does not need to be expensive, most of what you should have in your kits are things you already have around the house.

The only thing you should not do is wait to do it later.

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