Former Clearwater resident Bonnie Walker tells of her experience when a powerful magnitude 7.7 earthquake hit Haida Gwai on Saturday evening Oct. 27.
As you know, I reside in Skidegate on Haida Gwaii, with my partner Will and our two daughters Dylan and Marin. We were going about a pretty average evening when the earthquake started at just after 8 p.m. When it started, Will and I thought it was our washing machine off balance from the spin cycle, but within seconds we of course realized that it was an earthquake, and a large quake at that. We grabbed our daughters and climbed under our kitchen table, our house was literally swaying back forth forth around us. The power went out, and the quake must have lasted another 30-40 seconds after — the intensity increased as the seconds passed. We waited for several minutes, then Willie got out and checked to make sure that there was nothing hazardous, glass or items that could fall on us, then the girls and I climbed out. We did have various items fall off the counter, books came out of the shelves, nothing broken just stuff scattered about, but at this point our real panic set in. We live quite high up, well above the tsunami zone, but our concern for the safety of family and friends, and for them to be moving to a safe spot was a fear more overwhelming than the earthquake itself. Amazingly, our girls settled quite quickly once the shaking was over. Power outages are regular around here, so lighting candles and being in the dark wasn’t out of the ordinary!!! We got ahold of family members who live up coast in an area called Lawn Hill, and thet were on their way up a logging road to higher ground, and my sister in law came up to our house with her family, so one by one everyone’s whereabouts was putting us at ease. We started worrying about the size of this quake, and contacted family on Vancouver Island to see if we could gauge the strength of it, but they hadn’t felt anything in Duncan. By this point our street was flooded with vehicles making their way up high, which was great, it was reassuring to see everyone thinking about safety. We aren’t strangers here to earthquakes and tsunami warnings but the severity is usually low on the scales, I believe that the destruction in Thailand and Japan is still so fresh in everyone’s minds, and because of media on all levels, we learned how quickly we all need to act in these situations. We have continued to experience aftershocks, and they continue to keep our island on edge, but the tremors are a great sign that the earth is settling and although we could experience another quake tomorrow, chances are it won’t happen for many years down the road. Our communities were deeply saddened at the loss of our Hotsprings ( as they have always been a source of enjoyment and the waters are believed to have healing qualities, but I have read that this may not be permanent and once the earth has healed itself it may replenish the springs. So, all in all, it was a harrowing experience but a great reminder to us islanders that we are all together out here and like many traumatic experiences in small communities it creates a stronger bond to each other and this place we call home.