Carol Kulesha grabbed her dog and took shelter under her kitchen table when her house in the Village of Queen Charlotte started to shake.
The mayor has lived in the tiny Haida Gwaii community of about 1,000 people for 42 years and she has felt a lot of tremors in that time, but nothing shook the ground quite like the 7.7 magnitude earthquake that hit just after 8 p.m. Saturday.
The quake was the largest to hit Canadian shores since an 8.1 magnitude quake struck in the same area in 1949. The impacts of were minimized because both epicentres were far away from heavily populated areas and the fault lines did not create a tsunami, experts said.
Butin case a tsunami ensued, several communities were evacuated, including Queen Charlotte, Sandspit, Bella Bella, Bella Coola and Kitimat First Nation. It was an alarming experience for most involved as entire communities scrambled to higher ground.
Queen Charlotte is at the southern end of Graham Island at Skidegate Inlet.
Kulesha waited for the shaking to stop before leaving her house.
I felt like I was on a freight train, Kulesha said. The noise was loud and the building was shaking as if it were going over railroad tracks.
So far no injuries have been reported and structural damage is believed to be minimal, but the result could have been much worse, according to experts.
An earthquake that size, with an epicentre closer to Victoria or Vancouver, would have much more damaging results, said Brent Ward, a geologist in the earth science department at Simon Fraser University.
In those communities, you see a lot of wood-frame construction that has more flex and doesnt tend to crack or crumble like cement or brick structures, he said.
But even more damage could have come from a tsunami, which would often ensue from a quake of this magnitude.
Fortunately, Saturdays temblor stemmed from a strike-slip fault line, involving two slabs of the earths crust rubbing one another. Strike-slips cause far less movement of the ocean surface and therefore tend to create only minor waves.
A 7.7 magnitude quake in a subduction zone, where two slabs of the earths crust would create much more movement when pressure was released, would definitely cause a tsunami, Ward said.
Emergency responders said the weekend was tantamount to an important training exercise to test response plans.
About 250 residents of Sandspit, on Haida Gwaiis Moresby Island, made their way to a hydro generator station outside their community Saturday night. Fire Chief Bob Ells said the evacuation went extremely well.
Id say a lot more people are familiar with tsunami warnings and earthquakes now, he said Sunday.
In Queen Charlotte Village, firefighters drove the streets, broadcasting the tsunami alert over loudspeakers mounted on their trucks. Organizers originally planned to set up a communication centre at the municipal hall, but when the electrical power cut out, they had to move to the RCMP building.
It was a bit of a scramble there when the power went out because we didnt have the backup power, Kulesha said.
Working out glitches in emergency response plans will help better prepare every one, according to experts.
This is a good wake-up call for people, Ward said.
He suggested that residents also prepare themselves by having their own plans. People should have a meeting place, a route and an earthquake kit.
This is nothing new. People know this. They just dont do it, Ward said.
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