1949 Olympia earthquake

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1949 Olympia earthquake
1949 Olympia earthquake is located in Washington (state)
1949 Olympia earthquake
UTC time1949-04-13 19:55:43
ISC event896466
Local dateApril 13, 1949 (1949-04-13)
Local time11:55:44
Duration~ 20 seconds[1]
Magnitude6.7 Mw[2]
Depth50 km (31 mi)[2]
Epicenter47°00′N 122°32′W / 47.0°N 122.53°W / 47.0; -122.53Coordinates: 47°00′N 122°32′W / 47.0°N 122.53°W / 47.0; -122.53[2]
Areas affectedPuget Sound region
United States
Total damage$25 million[3]
Max. intensityVIII (Severe)[3]
Peak acceleration0.25 g[1]
Casualties8 killed[3]
At least 64 injured[4]

The 1949 Olympia earthquake occurred on April 13 at 11:55:44 local time with a moment magnitude of 6.7 and a maximum Mercalli Intensity of VIII (Severe). The shock was located in the area between Olympia and Tacoma, and was felt throughout the state, as well as parts of Oregon, British Columbia, Idaho, and Montana. It is the largest recorded earthquake to occur in the Puget Sound region of Washington. Eight people were killed, a minimum of 64 people were injured, and the total damage is estimated at $25 million.


Damage in Olympia from the earthquake was estimated between $500,000 and $1 million by Governor Arthur B. Langlie.[5] Eight buildings on the State Capital campus were damaged by the earthquake, as well as the Old Capitol Building in downtown Olympia.[6] A 23-ton cradle on the east tower of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge fell 500 feet, injuring two men. The earthquake caused geysers to explode along the railroad track in the Tacoma tidal flats and in Puyallup.

In Seattle, nearly every building in the Pioneer Square neighborhood was affected in some way, with damage ranging from lost parapets to entire floors and in some cases entire buildings needing to be demolished over the following years. Most buildings still show the scars of earthquake damage and the mostly hasty repairs made to them.[citation needed]

Chimneys throughout western Washington collapsed.[7] Severe damages were recorded at schools in Adna and Napavine, and structural losses to buildings in Centralia's downtown district. The earthquake caused catastrophic loss to two schools in Chehalis, a state training school for youths and West Side Elementary; neither were rebuilt.[8][9]

Eight people were killed, including young crossing guard Marvin Klegman who shielded a second-grader from falling bricks.[7] At least 64 people were injured, and the total damage is estimated at $25 million.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Baker, G. E.; Langston, C. A. (1987), "Source parameters of the 1949 magnitude 7.1 south Puget Sound, Washington, earthquake as determined from long-period body waves and strong ground motions", Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, 77 (5): 1546, Bibcode:1987BuSSA..77.1530B, doi:10.1785/BSSA0770051530
  2. ^ a b c ISC (2014), ISC-GEM Global Instrumental Earthquake Catalogue (1900–2009), Version 1.05, International Seismological Centre
  3. ^ a b c Stover, C. W.; Coffman, J. L. (1993), Seismicity of the United States, 1568–1989 (Revised), U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1527, United States Government Printing Office, pp. 380, 385, 386
  4. ^ "Earthquake damage in Pioneer Square, Seattle, April 13, 1949". Museum of History and Industry. Retrieved November 16, 2017.
  5. ^ "Olympia Damage Half Million, Says Langlie". The Seattle Daily Times. April 19, 1949. p. 7.
  6. ^ "Earthquake Listed as Major; 5 Dead; Damage in Millions". The Seattle Daily Times. April 13, 1949. p. 1.
  7. ^ a b McNair-Huff, Rob & Natalie (2016). Washington Disasters. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 129–134. ISBN 978-1-4930-1322-7.
  8. ^ "1949 Was Earth-Shaking, Heart-Breaking Time Here". The Chronicle. February 17, 2007. Retrieved December 22, 2021.
  9. ^ Jones, Pat (March 31, 2007). "Florence Kennicott Lived a Colorful Life". The Chronicle. p. A3. Retrieved December 22, 2021.

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