June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:42 PM
"It may be our fault next timeSouth Whidbey citizens rode out last week's earthquake in fine fashion, but that shouldn't make us complacent. While the 6.8 magnitude earthquake was the biggest in 50 years, nobody is saying it was the Big One we've all been worried about.On South Whidbey last Wednesday items fell off shelves and walls; we saw the pavement roll; and our wood-frame buildings passed another test. The public reacted fine, once the queasiness from standing on unsteady ground subsided. The students in our schools did an outstanding job reacting properly. They took cover inside and exited the buildings in an orderly fashion. Our school administrators and teachers deserve much credit for holding adequate drills to make this possible.Unfortunately, we can't heave a sign of relief and say there's nothing more to worry about for the next 50 years. One reason is that we have our own earthquake fault line that could start moving at any time.As reported in The South Whidbey Record several times in recent years, the South Whidbey Fault Line was first marked by scientists in 1995. It crosses the island from Mutiny Bay, continues through Freeland and Bayview, and exits just south of Clinton.Scientists say this fault is probably shallow -- 10 to 15 miles deep compared last week's Nisqually quake which was centered 33 miles underground. The scientists also say that the shallower the quake the more the earth moves, so South Whidbey could be in for a long, hard ride sometime in the future. Consider how seemingly endless last week's earthquake was. Although less than 30 seconds in duration, it seemed like an eternity. The Big One, whether caused by the South Whidbey Fault or some other nearby fault, could shake for two or three minutes. Property damage as a result would be monumental.The majority of us don't buy earthquake insurance and we made it through the quake of 2001 just fine. But maybe we should starting thinking about the Big One. Our schools survived the last quake in good shape. But maybe we should have the buildings assessed and fortified where needed to ride out the Big One. Our water systems functioned fine after last week's quake, but maybe they won't after the next one and we should start planning ahead.The next really big earthquake could well be centered on the South Whidbey Fault. And since it's our fault, we won't have anyone to blame but ourselves if we're not prepared. "