Earthquake Sept. 9 rekindles memories of ’46 quake

The earthquake that rattled Ron Webber’s home Friday shook up him, his wife and other members of their family.
Yet it was nothing compared to the first quake he experienced in the Comox Valley.

LIKE A CANARY in a coal mine

LIKE A CANARY in a coal mine

The earthquake that rattled Ron Webber’s home Friday shook up him, his wife and other members of their family.Yet it was nothing compared to the first quake he experienced in the Comox Valley.A pre-school lad at the time living in Cumberland, Webber has no trouble recalling the 7.3–magnitude jolt centred just west of the Comox Valley on Sunday, June 23, 1946 at 10:13 a.m.“I ran to my mom and dad,” the former Courtenay mayor reminisced Monday. “I remember one of the big clocks on the wall came crashing down.“It was brought to my attention by my parents that a big chunk on the face of the post office, which is our museum now, came crackling down. And the old schoolhouse, which is where Thrifty’s is now — it was fortunate it was on a weekend, because if kids had been in school … some of the bricks were on the desks the next day.“It was a dandy. This one (Friday) was a good shaker, too, but nothing like ’46.”  Still Canada’s most powerful onshore earthquake, the 1946 incident caused considerable damage on Vancouver Island and was felt as far away as Portland, Ore., and Prince Rupert.According to Natural Resources Canada, the quake “knocked down 75 per cent of the chimneys in the closest communities, Cumberland, Union Bay, and Courtenay and did considerable damage in Comox, Port Alberni and Powell River. A number of chimneys were shaken down in Victoria and people in Victoria and Vancouver were frightened — many running into the streets.”Two people died, one due to drowning when a small boat capsized in an earthquake-generated wave, and the other from a heart attack in Seattle.Friday’s magnitude-6.4 earthquake at about 12:40 p.m. was felt from northern Vancouver Island to the Fraser Valley. It had an epicentre 80 kilometres south of Port Alice.”Our chandelier was swinging and the recliner (rocker chair) started to move,” said Webber, who lives on the edge of downtown Courtenay only several blocks from Thrifty Foods. “It was rocking.”When asked how long it lasted, he said, “It seems like forever, but I guess it was just seconds.”His daughter Deanne, who’s married to Agriculture Minister Don McRae, was visiting with her infant daughter Chloe. Deanne noticed the quake first, then they all felt it.“It made me feel a bit nauseous,” said Webber’s wife Lorraine. “It wasn’t a nice feeling at all.”Holly Grant felt it at her home in Comox.“I was sitting home for lunch having a bite to eat at my kitchen table when my kitchen table and the chair started to shake. My heart started beating and I thought, ‘What is going on?’“I ran outside to see what was happening … I came to the conclusion it must have been an earthquake. It really shook me up.”Although there have been no reports of major damage, the Grant home was not spared.“We had some work done in the backyard this summer, and a big 16-foot step has come apart from the back porch.”Siding also split apart along the building’s foundation, added Grant, who is married to Coun. Tom Grant of Comox.“My heart was racing,” said Holly Grant, an earthquake rookie. “I don’t think I want to go through again, but it makes you think about getting prepared.”Webber said he doesn’t worry about another quake, although he said he knows it’s going to come.

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