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Southend sensor will detect big quakes

"Amy Lindemuth, a scientist with the University of Washington's Department of Earth and Space Sciences, shows off the strong motion sensor she installed at South Whidbey Primary School.Matt Johnson / staff photoScientists from the University of Washington connected South Whidbey to a nationwide network of earthquake detection equipment Monday when they installed a sensor at South Whidbey Primary School.Called a strong motion sensor, the device is a type of seismograph that detects and records earthquakes with a magnitude of 5 or greater. It is connected to a network of other quake sensing devices in the Puget Sound area, around Salt Lake City, and in the San Francisco Bay area. Devices in Reno, Nev. and Memphis, Tenn. will also be on the network in the near future.U.W. scientist Amy Lindemuth said South Whidbey's sensor is the best device for measuring large earthquakes. It is not as sensitive as the seismometers that measure small, daily movements in the earth's crust, but it is more accurate when recording large quakes.Attached to the foundation in an equipment room in the primary school, the sensor will send the information it records to a central information center at the university over an Internet hookup. The information will be available to the public on a Web site.Lindemuth said the U.W. installed its first strong motion sensors late last year, just in time to record this spring's Nisqually earthquake. She and other university scientists are installing the devices in a number of public buildings in the Puget Sound area and in free field huts outside human settlements.While those who see the devices being installed find them interesting, Lindemuth said they are also unsettling because of the size of earthquakes they measure. If the device is recording, she said, the building is probably shaking as well.The university will send members from its Earth and Space Sciences Department to the primary school during the next school year to teach students about the strong motion sensor. We're trying to do some community outreach, Lindemuth said.The U.S. Department of the Interior paid for the equipment installed at the primary school, while the university paid for the installation. The South Whidbey School District has no financial responsibility for the strong motion sensor.To find daily readings, to to the university's seismology network on the Internet. "

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