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Quake rolls over island

"To receive further information, contact the Disaster Preparedness Office at 679-7370.Residents and business owners that find damage believed to be caused by the February 28 earthquake may make a report directly to the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-800-462-9029, Harmon said.Emergency preparedness information and supplies are available at your local American Red Cross chapter. Call 257-2096 or visit their website at www.islandredcross.org.While residents all over Whidbey Island reported feeling the 6.8 Nisqually earthquake, the island escaped the destruction that shook up the Seattle area Wednesday morning.Island County Office of Emergency Preparedness Deputy Director T.J. Harmon said there were no injuries and only minor cracks reported in a few island buildings.Kathy McKlymont, the 911 director, said that operators received about 25 locals calls immediately after the quake, but none of the callers reported damage of any kind.They just called to say, 'did you know we're having an earthquake?' she said, adding that people should only make calls if there's an emergency after a quake or other types of natural disasters.In fact, McKlymont said both wire and wireless phone service, as well as the Internet, got jammed up because everyone got excited and called friends all over the country. We were very lucky this time, Harmon said, because the epicenter was about 81 miles away in south Seattle and about 30 miles under the surface.Jerick Bergsma, a research assistant with the University of Washington Seismology Lab, said that the the amplitude - or wave height - and the speed of the shock waves decrease by an inverse square ratio the farther you get from the epicenter. Soil type and wave reflection only affect how large an earthquake's path of destruction will be.That's why, he said, people on Whidbey probably felt that they were on a slow roller coaster ride instead of the harsh shaking that was felt in Seattle.Harmon said that minor cracks developed in the Coupeville High School, Oak Harbor School District office, and buildings on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.Larrie Ford, maintenance rep. at Coupeville Middle and High Schools, said the quake hit just as the schools were letting out for their regular half day. It was mass confusion there for a moment until everybody figured out what was going on, he said. But according to Ford, the only area that showed any cracking was around the expansion joint, which is designed to give in earthquakes. It did exactly what it was supposed to do, he said. The new brick construction of the gym and junior high is built for earthquakes. The old was built to last forever. Between the two it's working for now.Immediately following the incident, Island County officials and staff began to confirm the state of operations. A status check of the 911 center, the fire districts and Whidbey General Hospital found that all were fully functional with no immediate signs of damage.We are fine, said Trish Rose, spokesperson for Whidbey General hospital. Nothing fell off the walls or anything.Rose credited changes made several years ago for the hospital coming through the quake unscathed. We identified and corrected problem areas, such as unsecure shelving, Rose said.Immediately following the earthquake, hospital department supervisors, implemented an internal disaster preparedness plan for earthquakes, Rose said. This included checking for injuries to staff, structural damage, non-structural damage, and status of utilities.Deception Pass bridge was checked by the Department of Transportation within one hour of the quake, which is part of standard procedure, Harmon said. The bridge checked out fine. Anything 6.0 or above and the bridge (is given a) structural check, said Harmon.The loss of Deception Pass Bridge is a scenario that Harmon has investigated over the last couple of years through her work with the Island County Disaster Council. Harmon said that families with one or more parent working off-island should predetermine a reunification plan with their families. If mom and dad can't get home from work, who should take care of the kids? Harmon said.Last May the council performed earthquake exercises in conjunction with the DOT to find alternate methods of transportation in the event the bridge is unusable. The exercises revealed that DOT catamaran ferries would be able to dock at several harbors on the east side of Whidbey Island. In addition, volunteer members of the Camano Island Yacht Club have signed up to assist with damage assessment and off-island transport, using their personal boats. We have been training for this for the past couple of years, Harmon said.At Coupeville schools, the students were kept inside in earthquake position under their desks while maintenance personnel checked for falling debris, since the buildings are built of brick and the high school building is quite old. Once the bricks were found to be sound, the students were evacuated to the football field. We practice these things, Ford said. You don't want one kid getting hurt, not one.Community demand for earthquake and emergency preparedness information increased dramatically in Island County following the temblor. According to Jean Hermanson, director of the American Red Cross, Island County chapter, more than 3,000 brochures, coloring books and family disaster preparedness plans were distributed by American Red Cross volunteers to city halls, libraries, school districts and senior centers throughout Island County Thursday morning. She said the sales of disaster kits have increased following the quake. Harmon urges all residents to not become complacent about earthquake awareness.Bergsma agreed.It doesn't have to occur on Whidbey for Whidbey people to be concerned about it, he said. The entire Puget Sound is high risk for several types of earthquakes. "

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