Early morning earthquake picked up by ShakeAlert, PSU professor says

Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 4:52 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - A 4.4 magnitude earthquake Friday morning woke up thousands of Oregonians but also turned on the state’s new ShakeAlert system.

ShakeAlert is an earthquake warning tool that went into operation last March. It doesn’t predict earthquakes but warns the public one is on the way after it initially erupts. Earthquake Geologist and Associate Professor at Portland State University, Ashley Streig, said ShakeAlert immediately began collecting data from seismic sensors across the state. A supercomputer collected the data and determined the strength and location of Friday morning’s earthquake. However, the strength was just shy of the 4.5 magnitude threshold needed to send out emergency alerts. Professor Streig said it’s a tool everyone on the West Coast should have turned on, especially for Portlanders, who live near three active fault lines that run through the middle of the city.

DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Residents near quake’s epicenter in Lacomb describe moment it hit

“So if there were a Portland Hills Fault earthquake, we could get important seconds of warning to schools, to hospitals in the region, to TRIMET to stop trains, to stop operations, to duck, cover and hold,” Professor Streig said.

An earthquake the size of Friday mornings isn’t rare, but Professor Streig said the location of the epicenter was “interesting.”

“It’s a fault that is not in what we call our active fault database, an alternative fault database,” Professor Streig said. “So it’s certainly an older bedrock fault that’s in the Western Cascades. There’s a load of faults there.”

Professor Streig also said even though so many people in the Willamette Valley felt the quake, it didn’t travel as far as if a similar size one started shaking the ground of the East Coast. Professor Streig said the tectonic plates on the West Coast are more active and there’s more volcanic activity. When an earthquake travels on the West Coast, these factors slow it down. She compared earthquakes on the West Coast to ringing a warm, metal bell. When you hit the bell, it makes a thud noise. She said the ground on the East Coast is as active and is more like ringing a cold metal bell. That noise can travel for a long distance.

Professor Streig also said Friday’s Earthquake should be a good reminder for you and your family to stay prepared if a destructive earthquake hits.

“The earthquake is small and it’s a reminder that we live on an active plate boundary, just like our beautiful Cascade Mountains are the same reminder,” Professor Streig said. “They’re there because of this plate boundary. And so we should expect earthquakes and we should be prepared.”

If you’d like to get Shake Alerts, you can download applications like My Shake and QuakeAlertUSA. You can also get the notifications by turning on your government emergency alerts in your cell phone settings.

If you’d like information on what you need to prepare for a large earthquake, you can visit the Red Cross’s website by clicking here.