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Itty bitty quakes rattle Whidbey

Blink, and you might have missed the small earthquakes that rumbled through Whidbey Island for a few seconds Sunday evening.

The quake, which occurred at 9:02 p.m., was centered just off the north coast of Central Whidbey in the Race Road area of Coupeville, near the Shangri-la Shores area. It was located at a depth of just over 17 miles. According to the University of Washington seismology department, the rumbler registered a magnitude 3.1 on the Richter scale, which definitely makes it a minor event.

Puget Sound Seismograph’s Web site shows that another small earthquake hit the area Sunday, just after 9 p.m. The 1.4 magnitude quake was centered at 48.1491 degrees North, 122.5640 degrees West and 13 miles below surface.

An even smaller quake hit Oak Harbor early Saturday morning, registering a mere 1.0 magnitude. The quake originated 11.8 miles under the city, right around Torpedo and Auvil roads. It hit at 7:41 a.m. Apparently, no one noticed.

By comparison, the famous Nisqually quake that shook western Washington the morning of Feb. 28, 2001 — sending bricks shooting into the streets of Seattle and causing numerous buildings to be condemned — registered a whopping 6.8 on the Richter scale.

While that hum-dilly wreaked significant structural damage throughout the region, a lot of folks didn’t even feel Sunday’s earthquake. Those that did notice the quake tell stories of hearing a “boom” followed by a split-second of shaking.

Pam Ross, an Oak Harbor School District employee who lives near Whidbey Golf and Country Club, said she and her husband heard a noise, followed by shaking.

“There was a loud boom, kind of like if an explosion happened out in our front yard,” Ross said Monday. She said she actually looked outside “expecting to see something on fire.”

Ross said the house shook “just a split second,” though she added that the motion was nothing like that of the Nisqually quake. “It wasn’t like what we’d felt before,” she said. “It wasn’t rolling.”

As far as she could tell, nothing was damaged in her home, Ross said.

Science professor George Biehl, who teaches at Skagit Valley College’s Oak Harbor annex, had a different analogy for the noise he heard when the earthquake hit.

“I felt this last night and thought someone had just slammed the door,” Biehl said. “That’s what a lot of people said.”

Randy Turner manages the wine shop at Greenbank Farm. He said he felt the quake from his home in Langley, though it wasn’t very dramatic. “I felt the one from Alaska more than I felt the one from here,” Turner said, referring to the massive 7.9 quake that shook the remote McKinnely Park region of Alaska Sunday afternoon, damaging the oil pipeline and causing one reported injury.

Turner said he drove out to Greenbank Farm around 10 p.m. to make sure everything was OK. Not a single wine glass appeared to have moved, and nothing was busted.

“It wasn’t much, that’s for sure,” Turner said.

Anyone wishing to find up-to-the-minute information earthquakes both recent and past can check out the on-line site for Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network at www.geophy.washington.edu/SEIS/PNSN.

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