Pacific Northwest earthquake early warning system gets key federal funding

(Image: University of Washington)

Federal funding awarded this week will allow the installation of dozens of new seismic stations in Washington and Oregon to help build up the region’s early warning system for earthquakes.

“This investment in the PNSN represents a major increase in federal support for earthquake monitoring in the Cascadia region,” Harold Tobin, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network and professor in UW’s Department of Earth and Space Sciences, said in a statement from the school on the funding. “At the end of the two years of funding we anticipate having essentially doubled the number of seismic stations across our whole region that contribute to real-time earthquake early warning. This would allow for full public alerts of any potentially damaging earthquakes, across our entire region of Washington and Oregon, by the end of the two-year period.”

The U.S. Geological Survey announced the $10.4 million in funding to the network based at University of Washington to support the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system. Continue reading

Capitol Hill slept through an early morning Seattle earthquake

A 4.6 magnitude earthquake rumbled from near Monroe early Friday morning, shaking buildings to the southwest around Seattle while most of Capitol Hill slept through the ride.

There were no reports of significant damage or injuries from the 2:51 AM quake or smaller aftershocks that followed but it did rattle and roll enough for a few people to get out of bed — or, at least, roll over, grab their phones, and update social media.

USGS Community Internet Intensity Map

The US Geological Survey’s mapping of reports from around the area showed that the quake was felts as far away as Olympia.

KIRO reports the quake is the largest to hit the region since the 6.8 M 2001 Nisqually earthquake.

While Seattle is still largely unprepared for the “big one,” the city does know more about how much it would cost to retrofit its thousands of unreinforced masonry buildings. A new plan, meanwhile, will test a solar microgrid system at Capitol Hill’s Miller Community Center that is designed to give the facility greater resiliency in the event of natural disasters.

SCC Insight: How much will it cost to fix Seattle’s unreinforced masonry buildings?

With reporting by SCCI Insight

According to SDCI, the City of Seattle contains 1,145 buildings with unreinforced masonry that could collapse in a major seismic event. While records are incomplete, the city estimates that about 11% of those have already retrofitted the building to address the issue. Another 68 of them are owned by various government entities. That leaves 944 buildings in private hands with unreinforced masonry: in total about 20,200,000 square feet, containing 10,400 residential housing units with 22,050 residents. Thirty seven of those buildings contain 1,559 designated affordable housing units. Continue reading

In event of catastrophe: Study recommends Volunteer Park reservoir remain ready to serve Capitol Hill and beyond

22 million gallons of Cedar River water is waiting atop Capitol Hill (Image: CHS)

A recent study recommends that Volunteer Park’s reservoir will remain exactly that — a reservoir. Even if it were to stay unconnected to the city’s drinking water system, as it is now, the water could prove crucial in the event of a major earthquake. There is a 15-20% likelihood that such an earthquake will hit Seattle within the next 50 years.

Back in 2013, the city began studying the reservoir, along with one in Roosevelt, to see if it was still needed. Federal safety guidelines about protecting the water supply mandate expensive upgrades (basically putting a lid on it) in order to continue using the reservoir as a source of drinking water. So the city considered decommissioning it instead. Continue reading

94-year-old Highland Apartments lined up for seismic overhaul — But first, is it a landmark?

One of the next Capitol Hill buildings to be considered for City of Seattle landmark protections this summer is going through the process before it can also get another sort of important protection — from earthquakes.

The Highland Apartments, the 1924-built masonry condominium building in the 900 block of 11th Ave E just across from Volunteer Park, is lined up to be reviewed in June “in order to ascertain its historic nature prior to a proposed major alteration to the property,” according to the nomination report prepared on behalf of the building’s owner. Continue reading

While Seattle churns on earthquake retrofit plans, Capitol Hill school set for seismic upgrades

E Mercer’s Lowell Elementary is lined up for summer seismic work

Saturday afternoon around 3:35 PM, a magnitude 2.7 earthquake sent a little jolt of reminder rippling out of South Seattle. The city has some seismic work to do.

On Capitol Hill, the next round of work begins this summer as Lowell Elementary School is scheduled for major seismic updates this summer while the city tries to figure out what to do about other brick buildings around town. Continue reading

Plenty of reasons to be earthquake-ready on Capitol Hill

Broadway’s All Pilgrims underwent a seismic upgrade in 2013 (Image: CHS)

Thursday brings another edition of the annual Great Washington Shakeout:

Millions of people worldwide will practice how to
Drop, Cover, and Hold On at 10:19 a.m. on October 19* during Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills!

Washingtonians can join them today by registering for the 2017 Great Washington ShakeOut. Participating is a great way for your family or organization to be prepared to survive and recover quickly from big earthquakes– wherever you live, work, or travel. Learn tips on how to get 2 Weeks Ready and craft your own emergency kits here. ShakeOut is also a major activity of America’s PrepareAthon!

Unfortunately when it comes to the earthquake preparedness of Capitol Hill’s community resources and buildings, not much has changed since last year’s Shakeout. Or since the June 2016 “largest ever” Seattle “Cascadia Rising” drill. Or the February 2016 15th anniversary of the destructive Nisqualy quake.
Continue reading

Seattle has plan to retrofit its most earthquake-risky buildings

In 2016, CHS reported on 300 buildings around Seattle added to city’s list of hundreds of seismically risky “unreinforced masonry” structures that could crumble in a major earthquake. In 2018, the City Council might finally start to do something about it.

Monday, the council heard recommendations from the Unreinforced Masonry Policy Committee around requiring retrofitting across Seattle — and how to pay for it. But even with the renewed recommendations — embedded below — there is still only a fuzzy roadmap to putting new rules into effect:

Having briefed the Council this morning, it’s now in the Council members’ hands to decide how to move these recommendations forward in 2018: whether to once again make retrofit of URM buildings mandatory and under what timeline, which financial assistance programs to pursue, and whether ancillary programs such as the Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance should be extended to provide additional aid for tenants displaced by retrofit work. Council member Bagshaw has been vocal about the need to address this issue for some time; it wouldn’t be surprising if she sponsored legislation to adopt the policy committee’s recommendations.

And bricks might not even be the city’s biggest challenge. There is growing evidence that concrete buildings engineered using outdated methods were some of the most vulnerable structures during Mexico City’s big quake in September. “Flat slab” construction is only restricted in parts of the United States.

Meanwhile, some Capitol Hill landowners are moving forward on their own. Last year, CHS reported on details of the voluntary retrofit of the Whitworth Apartments, a classic Capitol Hill apartment building at 17th and John.

The full presentation of recommendations from the committee is below. Continue reading

Classic Capitol Hill apartment building slated for seismic upgrades at 17th/John

The Whitworth Apartments (Image: Cadence Real Estate)

The Whitworth Apartments (Image: Cadence Real Estate)

Pre-WWII brick apartment buildings are part and parcel of Capitol Hill’s charm. Many also need expensive upgrades to ensure they don’t collapse in an inevitable future earthquake.

As the City of Seattle continues to slowly push forward requirements for seismic retrofitting, the new owner of the 56-unit Whitworth Apartments building says he decided to get the work done before the big one hits (not to mention the likely cost-savings of doing the upgrade before a retrofitting law is passed, which will send building owners clamoring for contractors).

Peter Goldman, a longtime Seattle resident, purchased the 17th and E John “unreinforced masonry” building this summer for $18.2 million, property records show. He told CHS his family had recently sold several properties out-of-state and decided to reinvest the money in two Seattle apartment buildings. The U.S. tax code encourages such reinvestments by delaying the capital gains tax.

“The only responsible thing to do is to prepare it for an earthquake,” Goldman said. “I don’t want to wait to be told what to do. I want to do the right thing.” Continue reading

Capitol Hill not part of Seattle’s biggest earthquake preparedness drill

Hubs2015Map-FINALThe largest earthquake drill in Pacific Northwest history is taking place this week and includes residents gathering at neighborhood hubs to act out emergency scenarios. But you won’t find a meet-up on Capitol Hill.

Last year the group Capitol Hill Prepares dissolved its earthquake preparedness activities as a city-identified “Hub” and shut down its website and social media accounts due to a lack of involvement.

Neighborhood Hubs and Seattle Neighborhood’s Actively Prepare groups are intended to be the main units of organizing emergency preparedness in the city, developed by the Office of Emergency Management. Hubs are organized around pre-determined locations where neighbors agree to meet to share information and resources.

Currently Capitol Hill has no active Hub groups. Madison Park has the closest Hub participating in the June 11th drill.

The bulk of the Cascadia Rising drill has taken place behind the scenes this week among government and emergency management agencies across the Pacific Northwest. The exercise simulated an emergency response coordination following a 9.0 earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Seattle Fire Department will conduct helicopter drills from the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 on Saturday.

You can learn more here about building emergency kits and preparing your home in the case of a disaster.

UPDATE 6/10/2016: The person fighting to expand her Broadway Pride street festival into a second day is also stepping up to make Capitol Hill part of Saturday’s earthquake drill:

Cascadia Rising Earthquake Simulation

June 11, 2016

9:30-Noon
Cal Anderson Park by the shelter house.

with the
CAP-SNAP – Capitol Hill SNAP Disaster Preparedness Group

Meet your neighbor, test your preparedness and plan for the big one!

Chances are, you or someone close to you has medical experience, training, technical skills, experience or equipment that is needed in times of emergency.

Come join the CAP-SNAP Network!

SNAP or Seattle Neighborhood’s Actively Prepare is a city Emergency disaster preparedness plan where groups or SNAP are main units of organizing around locations where neighbors agree to meet and share information and resources to prepare themselves on how to react in emergency situations, so residents can react quickly and appropriately when a real emergency situation occurs.

Currently Capitol Hill has NO SNAP groups although in the past there were Hubs at Cal Anderson Park, Volunteer Park and Miller Playfield.

 

“Using the safety plan experience and existing network of the Capitol Hill Pride Festival March and Rally – the largest community event on Capitol Hill with residences and businesses, the festival is spring boarding the development of a Disaster Preparedness Group, hopefully permanently and again establishing Cal Anderson Park as a Hub or meeting place to share resources and prepare for emergencies in one of Seattle’s most densely populated neighborhoods,” the announcement from Charlette Lefevre reads.

“We would like as many Neighborhood Leaders, Activists, businesses, organizations, residents, students and youth as possible to participate,” she writes.