Two earthquakes hit the Puget Sound region early Friday morning (7/12/19). The quakes measured 4.6 and 3.5 magnitude respectively. The earthquakes began near Monroe, WA and no news outlets have reported any damage in the region.
While Washington State experiences frequent low-magnitude earthquakes and tremors, larger ones can result in risks to public safety and property damage. Many in the region may recall the magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake in 2001 as proof of an earthquake’s destructive potential. The Nisqually quake caused over $1 Billion in damage, leaving many roads and older buildings in shambles.
The Seattle Times reports that there as of 2016 there were over 1,100 buildings in Seattle alone that are “earthquake-vulnerable” and that “at any moment, at least 26,500 people in Seattle may be within unreinforced walls that have never had a seismic upgrade”.1 With experts predicting the region could one day have an earthquake as large as magnitude 9.0, these buildings pose a large public safety risk.
Neither the state of Washington nor Seattle requires strict retrofitting standards. In 1973, Seattle’s City Council did implement seismic standards after various earthquakes in prior decades resulted in multiple fatalities. However, the standards were lifted 5 years later due to the pushback on retrofitting costs.2
1, 2: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/times-watchdog/buildings-that-kill-the-earthquake-danger-lawmakers-have-ignored-for-decades/