Strong earthquakes jolt Yukon, northwestern B.C.

Dozens of aftershocks rattled parts of southern Yukon, northern British Columbia

WHITEHORSE — Dozens of aftershocks rattled parts of southern Yukon and northern British Columbia after a strong earthquake shook the area Monday.

The tremors cut power and closed schools in Whitehorse, but officials said there was no major damage.

Natural Resources Canada reported that the first quake with a magnitude of 6.2 hit at 5:31 a.m. Pacific time.

It was centred in a remote area 77 kilometres northwest of Skagway, Alaska, and 127 kilometres southwest of Whitehorse.

The U.S. Geological Survey website showed that the shaker was followed by many more over the next 90 minutes, including aftershocks with magnitudes of 6.3 and 5.2.

Four hours after the quake, the geological survey had recorded more than 50 temblors, and aftershocks continued to shake the area.

The Yukon government activated its Emergency Co-ordination Centre as the quakes continued.

“What I can tell you is that there have been no reports of damage or injury in Whitehorse,” said an official who answered the phone at the Yukon Emergency Measures Organization.

“We are continuing to assess our infrastructure. There are intermittent power failures within Whitehorse. Sir, I have got to go. There is another earthquake happening.”

Both the National Weather Service in the U.S. and Emergency Info B.C. said the quakes were not expected to trigger a tsunami.

The tremors knocked out power to about 8,000 people in Whitehorse and closed three schools, but officials said there was no damage to critical infrastructure.

“At this point, we are actually looking pretty good,” Richard Graham with the City of Whitehorse said Monday morning.

Yukon Energy spokeswoman Janet Patterson said the first quake knocked out a substation in Whitehorse, but staff have checked equipment at several generating facilities and haven’t reported any concerns.

“We lost power because our Whitehorse substation tripped off,” she said. “It tripped off essentially to protect itself … so that there would not be any significant damage.”

Earthquakes over a magnitude of six can cause damage to buildings, even well-built ones, but the shocks appear to have resulted only in minor damage.

Pat Commons owns the Riverside Grocery in downtown Whitehorse and said he arrived at the store Monday morning to find some items had toppled off the shelves.

“It was a pretty quick cleanup,” he said. ”It was mostly just stuff that fell off the shelves so it was better than it could have been.”

Luann Baker-Johnson, who owns a glass-blowing studio, said she jumped in her car after feeling the first quake so she could get to her studio and assess the damage.

She arrived to find six glass pieces had broken and the damage was far less than she had feared.

“The floor was littered with broken glass but the shelves looked fairly happy, fairly full still,” Baker-Johnson said.

While she was in the studio, another earthquake hit.

“It was like an orchestra of tinkling glass but nothing else fell,” she said.

Dustin Davis felt the shaking in Carcross, Yukon, about 75 kilometres south of Whitehorse.

“Our house shook a bit but nothing is damaged,” he said.

“I haven’t left my house, but most of the homes around here are maximum two storeys, and in Carcross there are no real tall structures and I think everything can handle a decent little shake.” (Whitehorse Star, The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Press

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