Earthquake Rattles Nerves And More At Cascade Hardwoods

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A magnitude 6.8 earthquake occurred about 10 miles (20 km) northeast of Olympia, Washington on Feb 28, 2001, lasting about 45 seconds. This tremor, now called the Nisqually quake, was the strongest to hit Washington State in 52 years. It closed the Seattle airport for several hours and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people. It also cracked the dome atop the state Capitol in Olympia and briefly trapped about 30 people atop a swaying Space Needle in Seattle.


About 200 people were injured and damage was estimated at more than $1 billion. Still, residents in this seismically active region were lucky that the magnitude 6.8 tremor caused relatively little damage, mostly because it occurred 30 (48 km) miles below the Earth's surface. In contrast, the magnitude 6.7 Northridge quake in Los Angeles in 1994 struck just 11 miles underground. It caused an estimated $40 billion in damage and killed 72 people.

At Cascade Hardwoods in Chehalis, Washington, just 40 (64 km) miles from the epicenter, the upstairs filing room shook a lot more than usual when the quake struck just before 11 AM. "We get a fair amount of vibration from the mill downstairs so we did not think much of it at first," reported Head Filer, Mike West. "My office started shaking the same way it does when the cant deck below me gets full. Seconds later I realized it was not stopping and hollered to the crew to get out, but they didn't need my cue. They were already headed out."

When the filers, who were not injured, returned to the filing room a few minutes later, they took stock of the mess. Saws, guides and oxygen bottles, which had been securely chained to the wall, had fallen over. The telephone had shaken off the hook. A 1500 lb. (680 KG) knife grinder had moved about 6 inches (150mm).

Mike advises others "to look at anything that might fall and hurt somebody and move it or lash it to something." For example, the 48-inch (1.2 M) straight edge sitting on two nails above the anvil room door nearly hit West, the roundsaw benchman as he ran out the door. Several other items that could have caused serious injury have been moved away from work zones. Mike considers this experience "a gentle reminder to look up once in a while."

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