'Rumbled and rattled': Estimated 4.5-magnitude earthquake near Fort St. John

There was an estimated 4.5-magnitude earthquake just south of Fort St. John Thursday evening.

The earthquake happened around 6:25 p.m., with its estimated epicentre just 16 kilometres southwest of the city, according to Earthquakes Canada.

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The precise location and scale is unknown, as is the cause. That’s subject to change as more data comes in, said John Cassidy, an earthquake seismologist with Natural Resources Canada.

“It’s one of the stronger ones in quite some time. We’ve seen larger, but it’s certainly right up there,” Cassidy said. 

A 3.3-magnitude aftershock was recorded at 7:06 p.m., and a second aftershock near magnitude 4 was recorded at 7:15.

Residents across Northeast B.C. report feeling loud, strong tremors that shook houses for several seconds in Fort St. John, Charlie Lake, Taylor, Chetwynd, Dawson Creek, and Hudson's Hope, and rural communities in between.

Some have said they felt tremors as far away as Pouce Coupe and Baytree, Alberta. Felt reports are coming in as far away as 100 kilometres from the city, Cassidy said.

There have been no reports of damage.

On 105 Avenue in Fort St. John, Anne-Marie Freeman said the tremors shook the top floor of her condo building. "I thought the TV was going to fall over! Such a huge shake!" Freeman said.

Said Wendy Burkholder, "Out at the airport here, and I thought my walls were cracking."

"Dawson felt it bad," Samantha Zack said. "My work office white board came down even." 

Said Carol Alexander, "It shook hard and rumbled and rattled."

BC Oil and Gas Commission officials said they are investigating the matter.

The depth of the earthquake, currently estimated between five to 10 kilometres, will be important in determining its cause, Cassidy said.

“Whether this is in any way induced or related to industrial activities we don’t know yet,” Cassidy said.

The tremors were felt at the Site C dam, under construction on the Peace River outside of Fort St. John.

“We’re doing a check of the construction areas,” Site C spokesman Dave Conway said.

There were no injuries on site, Conway said. Conway couldn't say whether work at the site has halted.

Just downstream of the dam site is the riverside community of Old Fort, where a landslide occured in September and forced residents to evacuate their homes for more than a month before they were allowed to return on Nov. 4.

The ministry of transportation has checked their monitoring equipment at the site of the landslide and there is no movement at this time, officials say. 

Upstream of the Site C dam, are the WAC Bennett and Peace Canyon dams. Plant operators say there has been nothing of note related to the earthquake at their operations.

"We always do our due diligence, so our dam safety engineers are going over the data they have at this point," BC Hydro spokesperson Bob Gammer said. "We have security doing site checks as well just to make sure."

Cassidy is urging residents to fill out a report for Earthquakes Canada. You can do so by clicking here. There have been more than 100 reports so far.

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

Community Internet Intensity Map for an estimated 4.5 magnitude earthquake near Fort St. John, Nov. 29, 2018. The star is the estimated epicentre.
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