Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

CLASSES SUSPENDED – Elijah Smith Elementary School was closed today so it could be inspected after today’s earthquakes.

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

ALARMS APLENTY – City of Whitehorse fire trucks responded to the Yukon Government Main Administration Building this morning after the earthquakes. A number of alarms were set off by the event.

Image title

Photo by Photo Submitted

ESCARPMENT DISTURBED – The clay cliffs by the Canadian Tire store are seen this morning sloughing following the second earthquake. Photo by ANGIE DICKSON

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

A CASUALTY – The Lynn Building on Steele Street suffered some cracking from this morning’s shakers.

Quakes jolt Yukoners awake

Two Whitehorse schools and the school in Ross River were kept closed until a structural engineer could inspect them.

By Chuck Tobin on May 1, 2017

There were no reported injuries as the result of this morning’s two large earthquakes that shook southwest Yukon.

Two Whitehorse schools and the school in Ross River were kept closed until a structural engineer could inspect them.

Power was knocked out to some 8,000 customers after safety mechanisms tripped off the Whitehorse substation.

Representatives of the Yukon government, Yukon Energy and the City of Whitehorse all indicated late this morning inspections of their primary infrastructure have not turned up any issues so far.

Students at Ecole Whitehorse Elementary School were kept outside until the engineer gave the OK for them to return to class just before 10 a.m.

Elijah Smith Elementary School was still closed late this morning, as was the Ross River School.

Concerns over cracking and structural integrity also closed down the Lynn Building on Steele Street. It was still closed early this afternoon.

Some Whitehorse businesses like Riverside Grocery and the Lumel Studios glass posted pictures on Facebook of goods that had fallen from shelves.

Everybody was talking about the earthquakes this morning, the first one occurring at 5:31 and the second one at 7:18.

Seismologist Taimi Mulder of the Geological Survey of Canada said this morning from her office in Sidney, B.C. the first quake measured 6.2 and the second one measured 6.3.

Both were south of Haines Junction and west of Skagway, and relatively shallow at 10 kilometres below the surface, she said.

Mulder said a 6.2 and 6.3 are at the beginning of the level where you would expect to see relatively minor damage, such as dishes falling off shelves and such.

The southwest Yukon is no stranger to seismic activity, and has seen 13 quakes of a substantial magnitude since 1899, including this morning’s, she said.

Haines Junction resident Wolf Reidl said this morning he was living in Haines Junction in 1979 when there was a 7.2 or 7.4 quake in the region. Today’s was not as bad, but still significant, he said.

“It woke us up,” Reidl said. “I rattled us around in the bed and it stopped the pendulum clock in the house but that was about it.”

Richard Graham of the City of Whitehorse said late this morning staff have conducted inspections of critical infrastructure like pump houses and such, but have not seen any damage.

Both the Robert Campbell Bridge and the Millennium Bridge have been inspected and given the all-clear, he said.

Graham said all the major city buildings have been inspected and staff were moving onto the smaller buildings.

“At this point, we are actually looking pretty good,” said the acting director of infrastructure and operations.

He said there was some sloughing along the clay cliffs across from the Canadian Tire store, but an inspection indicated very little had actually come down.

Janet Patterson of Yukon Energy said staff have checked the major infrastructure and equipment at the Whitehorse, Aishihik and Mayo generating facilities and did not find anything of concern.

The first quake knocked out the entire substation at the Whitehorse Rapids Dam, she said.

“We lost power because our Whitehorse substation tripped off,” she said. “It tripped off essentially to protect itself ... so that there would not be any significant damage.”

Power was lost to the downtown, Riverdale, Arkell, Granger, Carcross, Teslin, Tagish and the Southern Lakes.

Carla Howard of ATCO Electric Yukon said 8,000 customers lost power but 3,600 had it restored by 6:30 a.m., and everybody was back on 7:15.

But the second quake at 7:18 shut down a portion of the substation that resulted in power being lost to the communities south of Whitehorse until 8:03, she explained.

Problems with back-up diesel generation prolonged the outage in Teslin but power to the community was restored shortly after 10 a.m.

Comments (7)

Up 11 Down 0

Hugh Mungus on May 4, 2017 at 2:40 pm

@Perspective Please

Down playing what happened and what could possibly happen is akin to burying your head in the sand. We don't need to live in a constant state of fear but we do have to be aware of our vulnerabilities. Fire, flood, earthquake, power and internet interruptions etc. We live in an earthquake zone plain and simple. Had that 6.2 hit in downtown Whitehorse it would be a very different story as it stands now at least 2 major buildings in the territory have sustained significant structural damage to the point they cannot be occupied.

Up 8 Down 0

Groucho d'North on May 4, 2017 at 10:38 am

The Yukon government's emergency coordination plan used to be posted on their website, it's no longer there. Perhaps its being updated.

Up 47 Down 8

Perspective Please on May 2, 2017 at 12:52 pm

After our little shake up yesterday, I watched social media and news outlets run wild with harrowing tales of traumas inflicted by the quakes. Yes, it was quite a sudden way to wake up in Whitehorse, but please, let us take a breath and look at this through a hopefully now well rested lens.

One news source referenced two devastating and fatal quakes of similar magnitude in other countries. This is fearmongering at it's best. While quakes of this magnitude can be dangerous, please remember we were not at the epicentre of this. What we felt was a reduced version of what they felt in Italy when their fatal quake hit. We did not get the full 6.2 and 6.3 that they got. The worst thing to happen in my own home was one of my childs toys fell from a shelf. I personally have a close friend who endured a 7.8 in a third world country, if you want to start comparing notes, theirs include sorting through rubble looking for family while ours is likely a broken picture and an hour long power outage.

So, let's be thankful that no one was harmed and damages were relatively few, let's be aware of safety precautions we need to take in our own spaces, but please, let's stop touting this as something we "survived". Remember that children watch and learn from our responses. When we respond to these situations calmly, they then learn how to act and react when similar instances occur. If we want to raise a society that acts rationally, we need to be one that acts that way. If we are ever faced with a larger scale emergency, hopefully our lessons learned here will yield better responses in the future.

Up 18 Down 18

Stanley Miller on May 1, 2017 at 9:53 pm

What the mayor was getting at was that if a quake caused the dam to break it would be devastating and many lives could be lost.

If it happened in the middle to the night it would be confusing and potentially very deadly. Are there warning sirens at the dam and in Riverdale? It's not a bad idea.

Up 36 Down 5

Mike from Canmore on May 1, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Where are our resident anti-frackers? I'm sure they will claim fracking in some obscure location is responsible for this.

Up 13 Down 22

Ernie on May 1, 2017 at 4:26 pm

This shows the Liberal government is ready to deal with anything in a cool, calm, collected manner.

Up 24 Down 11

Stanley Miller on May 1, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Does mayor and council have an emergency plan if there is widespread quake damage?

I bet they have nothing in place.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.