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Quake causes little damage: 5.0 temblor struck 30 miles under surface

Local News: Monday, June 11, 2001

By Caitlin Cleary

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Ruth Dorfler was cleaning her oven in the Satsop Grocery she owns with her husband, Bruce, early yesterday when she felt the ground begin to roll. "I wanted to run, but my legs just didn't move," Dorfler said. "It was just like going up in the Space Needle for me, when my legs just don't work right." Boxes of cereal and canned goods fell off the shelves, spilling in the aisles. But her husband, who was in the back room, didn't feel the quake at all.

The 5.0-magnitude earthquake, centered near the Grays Harbor County town, struck at 6:19 a.m. and was felt from Vancouver, B.C., to Vancouver, Wash. No significant damage or injuries were reported.

A 5.0 quake is considered mild and not capable of causing extensive damage in buildings that are up to code, said Ruth Ludwin of the University of Washington Seismology Lab. The earthquake was not an aftershock of February's 6.8-magnitude Nisqually earthquake, which caused more than $2 billion in damage around Puget Sound. But seismologists said yesterday's temblor was similarly deep, about 30 miles under the Earth's surface, where the oceanic plate is being pushed underneath the continental plate.

Crews from the state Department of Transportation inspected Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct, Tacoma Narrows Bridge and other structures and found no damage from the quake. Fire-department crews and emergency officials in Olympia surveying bridges and downtown found no damage at the Capitol, which was closed for seven weeks after the Nisqually quake.

There wasn't "even any dust," said Andy Stepelton, the Department of General Administration official who has overseen earthquake repairs on the building. People in Satsop, with a population of 619, a town Dorfler described as "about a blink of an eye," came by the Satsop Grocery one after another to tell their quake tales. It was a slight rumble, they said, and thankfully brief. "It was mild compared with the other two," Dorfler said. "But it still rolled."

A quake measuring 5.9 magnitude hit the same area in July 1999, damaging the cupola of the historic courthouse in nearby Montesano. The cupola was just replaced last November, and the courthouse was not damaged in yesterday's quake. The only Satsop-area damage crews found were some nonstructural cracks in the county's juvenile detention facility, said Paul Easter, Grays Harbor County public-services director.

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