Earthquake proves a shaky wake-up call

By JIM HALEY

Herald Writer

CAMANO ISLAND — A 3.3 magnitude earthquake rousted some north Puget Sound area residents from their beds at 12:37 a.m. Wednesday, authorities reported.

Island County sheriff’s dispatchers received numerous phone calls from people on Camano and Whidbey islands, but no damage was reported, sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Smith said.

"It was one big boom," Smith said.

The epicenter was about 14 miles southwest of Mount Vernon in Skagit Bay just north of Strawberry Point on Whidbey Island.

The quake woke Annie Schaff, a medical transcriptionist who lives on Strawberry Point Road.

"It was just a little jolt," Schaff said. "I was so sleepy I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I just looked at the clock and went back to sleep."

Schaff said it was the first earthquake she had felt in 12 years living on Whidbey Island.

Smaller earthquakes are common in the Puget Sound area, said Bill Steele, seismology laboratory coordinator at the University of Washington’s geophysics department.

Western Washington often gets a half-dozen or so such temblors of that size a year, he said, and smaller shakes every day.

The earthquake originally was reported as a 2.7 magnitude by instruments, but the severity was increased later Wednesday when scientists arrived at the lab for the workday, Steele said.

"They are not rare," Steele said of earthquakes this size. "But (this one) was large enough to be felt in southern British Columbia and parts of Island and Snohomish counties.

"There wouldn’t be damage from this size, but it’s a reminder that larger earthquakes in this area are definitely possible," Steele said.

In the past two weeks alone, about a dozen quakes have hit the area, which is typical, usually at levels that can’t be felt. At 7:30 a.m. Sunday, a 3.6 magnitude quake shook homes about 20 miles northwest of Poulsbo.

Steele encouraged people to contact local emergency management departments, where information can be obtained to prepare folks for "when we have a bigger one."

Residents also can keep track of earthquakes on the department’s Web site www.geophys.washington.edu.

Residents can fill out a form on the Web site indicating if they have felt an earthquake. That provides information about the extent of shaking and damage, Steele said.

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