January 22nd, 2017 at 12:05 PM. A magnitude 3.6 earthquake hit in the southern stretches of Olympic National Park near the Quinault Rainforest. Originating near the headwaters of the Wynoochee River, the quake came from a depth of 40km. While a quick call to a friend told me that the shaking was felt in the Quinault region, the are no reports of damage to structures or really any issues at all. This quake follows another smaller quake, a magnitude 2.6, located near Humptulips two mornings earlier. Earthquakes are common in the PNW and this latest jolt shouldn’t cause panic. Last year, also in January, over 2,000 small quakes made their way down the Hood Canal. Nothing bad came from that.
The earthquake this afternoon originated almost exactly between Graves Creek and the Wynoochee River, less than a quarter mile from Wynoochee Pass. It was the largest earthquake on the Olympic Peninsula in the last 365 days and the 12th largest earthquake on the Olympic Peninsula in the last 40 years. The largest earthquake on the Olympic Peninsula in recent memory was a 5.8 magnitude quake near Elma, Washington on July 2nd, 1999. On the evening of January 26, 1700, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake rocked the Washington coast off Grays Harbor, causing the land to instantly drop in elevation by up to 6 feet around the region. The quake occurred on the Cascadia Fault, which stretches from North Vancouver Island all the way to Northern California and saw over 622 miles of land get moved by an average slip of nearly 70 feet. The 1700 earthquake on the Cascadia Fault, located off shore and under the Pacific Ocean, caused a tsunami that not only devastated the local areas, but killed over 15,000 people across the ocean in Japan. This earthquake also caused the Ghost Forest of Copalis.
With no damage and no-one really talking about it, today’s small 3.8 quake in Olympic National Park will largely be ignored or forgotten about. Which is fine. Historically, earthquakes are a part of life on the Peninsula, as are tsunamis from earthquakes in other corners of the world. The 1964 Alaska Quake caused a tsunami that washed away bridges in Grays Harbor and caused serious damage up and down the Pacific Coast. Tsunami system have been placed up and down the coast and residents say they are ready for anything that comes their way. Out on the Olympic Peninsula, dealing with all aspects of nature is part of life. The region will be fine and so will the people. Hopefully, today’s earthquake is just another one to add in a long line of moderate to small sized quakes in the region.
As always, we will update this story if any more comes from it. Happy hiking and go enjoy the beauty of our Public Lands! Need to be inspired?