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4.6 earthquake shakes Seattle region overnight

Evan Bush, The Seattle Times on

Published in News & Features

"Once I realized things were rattling in my room longer than if it was from something like a truck going by, I knew it was an earthquake," she said.

Kennebeck, who last felt shaking during the 2001 magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake in grade school, said the quake left her with an unsettling feeling, particularly after a string of powerful earthquakes in California last week.

"Scared the crap out of me. And it was only a 4.4. My 4th grade self would be ashamed," she wrote.

She said she'll be putting together an updated emergency kit later Friday.

The Puget Sound region is one of the most hazardous areas in the country for earthquakes. The Cascadia Subduction Zone lurks offshore and could produce a damaging magnitude 9.0 earthquake, an event expected about every 500 years. But some have come only 200 years apart, and it has been 319 years since the region was hit with an earthquake that large. A Seattle Times analysis in 2016 found that about 5.4 million people live in a part of Washington endangered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

Scientists have discovered more than two dozen faults across Washington state that could also produce damaging shaking.

The region is largely unprepared. The state of Washington does not require old, rigid brick and concrete buildings to be retrofitted. Thousands of children attend classes in vulnerable school buildings. The state would need to spend hundreds of millions more dollars to retrofit its bridges. Many county emergency-management departments are staffed with a single employee, The Seattle Times found in 2017.

The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network is developing an early earthquake warning system to provide people notice an earthquake might soon give them a shake.

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Researchers have been "working furiously" to install new monitoring sites, Gomberg said. A pilot group of businesses, government agencies and schools has early access to the warning system, as its being tested and refined.

Gomberg said the system worked during this earthquake. It provided a few seconds of warning to Seattle that an earthquake was coming. It also assessed, within a few tenths of a point, the magnitude of the shaking, she said.

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