National Preparedness Month includes earthquake drill

August 29, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. Aug. 29, 2011

September is National Preparedness Month, and Washington officials plan a statewide earthquake drill to help residents prepare for a natural disaster.

The statewide drop, cover and hold earthquake drill is 10:15 a.m. Sept. 21. The monthly test of the Emergency Alert System marks the start of the drill.

“Citizens, companies and government agencies should review their individual preparedness plans, contact information, and emergency kits and need to prepare themselves to be self-sufficient for a minimum of three days following an act of terrorism, natural or manmade disasters,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a special proclamation.

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Minor 2.8 earthquake rattles Tiger Mountain neighborhood

August 23, 2011

The ground beneath Tiger Mountain rumbled early Aug. 18, as a minor earthquake rattled the Mirrormont neighborhood.

Seismologists recorded a magnitude-2.8 earthquake just before 1 a.m. about a mile beneath the surface.

Such small earthquakes occur often. Washington experiences more than 1,000 tremors each year, although most temblors do not cause damage or even receive much notice from residents.

“Whenever there’s an earthquake it slightly raises the odds that we’ll see more earthquakes,” said John Vidale, Pacific Northwest Seismic Network director and a University of Washington seismologist. “We’re not exactly sure if that’s because earthquakes are a sign of things going on or if that’s because the earthquakes trigger other earthquakes.”

The initial report from the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, based at the UW, pegged the Mirrormont temblor as magnitude 2.3 and deeper in the earth. The magnitude is a measure of earthquake size calculated from ground motion.

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Minor earthquake rattles Mirrormont early Thursday

August 18, 2011

NEW — 6:30 a.m. Aug. 18, 2011

Seismologists recorded a magnitude-2.3 earthquake early Thursday in the Mirrormont neighborhood on Tiger Mountain.

University of Washington seismologists said the micro-earthquake occurred at 12:49 a.m., about five miles south of downtown Issaquah.

Seismologists at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, based at the University of Washington, said the temblor occurred 3.9 miles beneath the surface.

The seismic activity came a year after seismologists recorded other micro-earthquakes in and near Issaquah.

Such small earthquakes occur often, and do not indicate another, larger quake is imminent.

Seismologists recorded a magnitude 1.6 earthquake about three miles northeast of downtown Issaquah in July 2010. The micro-earthquake followed a magnitude 1.1 micro-earthquake centered about four miles east of the city last June. UW seismologists said another micro-earthquake, magnitude 2.6, occurred at 9:52 p.m. Sept. 3 in Mirrormont.

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City planners consider proposal to build subdivision on steep site

July 26, 2011

The city Planning Department could decide soon on a 43-lot subdivision near Providence Point, but the site along Southeast 43rd Way could pose challenges.

Bellevue architect Dennis Riebe proposed the subdivision on 11.97 unoccupied acres along the south side of the street, across from Providence Point and west of the Forest Village neighborhood.

The project proposal includes single-family detached residences and townhouses. The site is zoned for single-family homes on small lots.

The plan also includes proposals for road-frontage improvements and access to Southeast 43rd Way.

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Ahoy! Explore a sunken forest in Lake Sammamish

July 2, 2011

Branches poke from a sunken forest in Lake Sammamish. By Paul Scott

The pillars rise from Lake Sammamish, as large as whalebones and faded to a ghostly gray.

Embedded in the lake near Timberlake Park is a submerged forest heaved into the lake during a long-ago landslide and earthquake.

Kayak Academy and Issaquah Paddle Sports owners Barb and George Gronseth point out the landmark on frequent kayaking expeditions around Lake Sammamish. The primeval stumps poking skyward elicit strange looks from outdoor enthusiasts.

“They never believe me when I tell them there was a landslide,” Barb Gronseth said.

Indeed, the state Department of Natural Resources detailed the ancient earthquake on the nearby Seattle Fault — a shallow seismic zone stretched along the interstate from Puget Sound and east through lakes Washington and Sammamish. Geologists determined a major earthquake about 1,000 years ago dislodged old-growth forest from a hillside. The shifting land collapsed and slid into the lake.

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King County employees aid disaster victims across Pacific

June 6, 2011

NEW — 6 a.m. June 6, 2011

King County employees donated more than 8,100 hours of accrued leave to disaster victims in Japan and New Zealand.

The county converted leave from 458 employees into a $286,815 cash donation to the American Red Cross for continuing earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

“This outpouring of support for our neighbors across the Pacific is another example of the determination to make a difference,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “I am so proud of King County employees for donating their hard-earned leave to help the people of Japan and New Zealand as they continue to recover from these tragic events.”

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Volcano Awareness Month is a reminder to prepare for disasters

May 24, 2011

Issaquah faces risk from volcanic ash amid Cascade eruption

Majestic Mount Rainier, peeping through the gap between Tiger and Squak mountains, stands as a constant reminder to prepare for emergencies.

The looming volcano, like Mount Baker to the north and Mount St. Helens to the south, is active and although geologists do not expect Mount Rainier to erupt anytime soon, emergency planners remind residents to prepare. May is Volcano Awareness Month.

“It’s one of the things where we actually have to remind people that a volcano is one of our hazards,” said Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director. “Everybody looks at Mount Rainier down in the valley there on a nice day and goes, ‘Ah, beautiful mountain’ — until it goes off.”

Issaquah sits outside the area under threat from Mount Rainier lahars, a debris-strewn mudflow streaming from a volcano, but volcanic ash, or tephra, could impact transportation and air quality in East King County. In the area surrounding the mountain, lahars pose a greater hazard than lava and poisonous gases.

Though lava flows might not extend more than a few miles beyond Mount Rainier National Park boundaries, lahars could reach as far north as South King County.

Heath and other emergency planners identify volcanic eruptions as a potential threat to Issaquah.

Carolyn Driedger, hydrologist and outreach coordinator at the U.S. Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash., said numerous volcanoes in the Cascade Range remain active.

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State removes hurdle for cities in need of disaster assistance

May 24, 2011

Floodwaters inundated Snoqualmie in January 2009 and, even as nearby Issaquah dried out from a major flood, officials sent equipment to the other flood-plagued city.

Issaquah and other local governments previously needed to negotiate a patchwork of interlocal agreements among local governments, law enforcement agencies and emergency service providers in order to receive aid from other jurisdictions during a disaster.

Under legislation signed last month, asking for help from other agencies in Washington is simpler for Issaquah and other local governments.

Bret Heath, city Public Works Operations and emergency management director, said the measure allows local governments to request aid from other jurisdictions in Washington, even if the parties do not have interlocal agreements in place.

“Prior to this, it was easier to bring resources in from out of state than it was from other counties,” he said.

The measure could serve a crucial need during a regional disaster, such as a major earthquake.

“Typically, during those types of emergencies, all of the jurisdictions in King County are in the same boat, if you will,” Heath said. “We’re not in a position where we can share resources with each other, because we’re all maxed out. So, we need to bring resources in from outside.”

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Off the Press

April 19, 2011

You really should prepare for disaster

I’m sitting at my kitchen table, far from Japan and its earthquakes, tsunamis and radiation that have claimed the lives of thousands of people, and far away from the American South and its tornadoes that have killed more than 40 people in just a few days.

Kathleen R. Merrill Press Editor

But such things don’t happen here in the Pacific Northwest, right? Well, yes — until they happen to you. Those people never thought they would see the things they’re seeing now, or live through the things they just experienced.

More than a decade ago, a tornado ripped through the part of Tennessee where I lived and ran a newspaper. The winds ripped the roof straight off my house, turned it over and dropped it pretty as you please in my backyard.

If that wasn’t scary and damaging enough, torrential rain poured into my then roofless house, ruining prized possessions. Still, I occasionally find something with black mold on it — mold that started back then. It’s not as bad as in the first years after the tornado, when I would have to throw out numerous items every Christmas when I unpacked my decorations. Or I would open a box of something during a move to find more molded things that hadn’t gotten dried or cleaned properly.

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April is opportunity to prepare for emergencies

April 11, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. April 11, 2011

Eastside Fire & Rescue is reminding residents to plan for emergencies during April, Disaster Preparedness Month.

The magnitude-9 earthquake in Japan last month — plus major earthquakes in Chile and Haiti last year — reminds residents about the seismic risk in the Pacific Northwest.

EFR emergency planners said Disaster Preparedness Month is a good opportunity for residents to practice and learn what to do in at home, school or workplaces.

Planners said knowing what to do in emergencies, developing a family plan and making sure everyone understands the plan is critical to staying safe in a disaster.

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