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Special Event

The Seattle Earthquake

Aired February 28, 2001 - 10:00 p.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Bill Hemmer in Atlanta. It is 7:00 now in Seattle. A very long day is now winding down, but what a day it was. For the next hour, we'll explore how the Pacific Northwest was rocked. Our show begins now.

ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN TONIGHT special report: "The Seattle Earthquake."

Moments of terror, history on home video. The day Bill Gates and the rest of Seattle got shook up.

For the next hour, a look at what today's magnitude 6.8 earthquake did to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, and why things weren't much worse.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doorway is the best.


ANNOUNCER: CNN TONIGHT, with Bill Hemmer at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

HEMMER: And good evening. A rather typical late morning in the state of Washington was turned suddenly into a rumbling and rolling panic. An earthquake measuring 6.8 has left millions shaken. The damage is widespread, the injured list continues to change, and at least one person has lost their life.

The epicenter of the quake hit 11 miles northeast of Olympia, Washington. The force of the tremor was felt as far north as Vancouver, British Columbia, and as far south as Portland, Oregon. It is being classified tonight as a major earthquake.

The latest numbers, again, one person is dead, more than 28 people were hurt in the quake, three seriously. Roads and bridges are damaged, creating traffic headaches in the area. Many buildings also were damaged, and will be checked now for their structural integrity. More than 200,000 customers had originally lost power, but now most are back online this evening.

It has been a very hectic day, but it also could have been much worse. With more tonight, here's CNN's Eric Philips. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIC PHILIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The quake began just before 11:00 a.m. Pacific time, right in the middle of the work day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The floor started shaking and the windows were moving and I just ducked for doorway.

PHILIPS: Cameras were already rolling at this press conference in downtown Seattle when the 30 to 45 second quake left a trail of destruction: crumbled buildings, smashed cars, and damaged homes. After the shaking stopped, dozens rushed outside to see what had happened. Some were evacuated until the safety of their building could be assessed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was the jerky kind of quake. It wasn't the rolling kind. It was the kind of jerking kind.

PHILIPS: The kind that destroys roadways and triggers mudslides. At least one industrial fire was also blamed on the powerful quake. The epicenter of the quake was reportedly near Tacoma, Washington, but buildings all the way to Portland, Oregon were shaken.

GOV. GARY LOCKE (D), WASHINGTON: I have declared a state of emergency throughout all of western Washington. This will enable all governmental agencies to cooperate, help each other, to waive a lot of the rules and regulations, the normal red tape.

PHILIPS: The quake, which also interrupted this speech by Bill Gates at this Seattle hotel, was the strongest to hit Seattle in the past 50 years.

Eric Philips, CNN.


HEMMER: Much more now. There has been damage throughout the Puget Sound area, some of it dramatic. Thirty people were kept at the top of Seattle's most recognizable icon, that's the Space Needle, as it swayed from the force of the earthquake. Highway 101 northwest of Olympia buckled in several different areas.

The state capitol building in Olympia suffered a visible crack its stone dome. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was closed temporarily, when the quake damaged the control tower. The airport Web site says FAA authorities are working out of a temporary control center tonight.

The quake, again, felt at the northern edge of Puget Sound, where in people in Vancouver, British Columbia headed for cover. And in the south, the quake was felt in Portland, Oregon, but there are no reports of injuries or serious damage there.

For more on the damage in Seattle, though, we turn to CNN's Katharine Barrett, who's been covering this story from the very outbreak earlier today.

Katharine, good evening to you.

KATHARINE BARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Bill. That's right, at the very outset it was a massive jolt. Some thought it was a bomb, then that jumping and rolling and rocking and shaking in houses and offices and businesses around the area was unmistakably an earthquake, but one of a size not felt here in more than 50 years.

As you said, the state capitol dome was damaged. Washington's governor's mansion was damaged and the governor is staying elsewhere because building inspector will have to certify the governor's mansion safe to live in before the governor can go back. That, like many buildings in this area, building inspectors and structural engineers will be working overtime tonight to look for damage that may not at first be visible, structural damage to these buildings.

The visible damage fairly minor, considering the major size of this quake. We had windows broken, bricks tumbled into the streets, some cracks in roadways, some mudslides, but again relatively minor, though one resident described being in his apartment with things flying around like being in a blender.

I'm joined tonight by King County's Sheriff's Sergeant John Urquhart. Now, Mr. Urquhart, you were where when this struck, and first tell me what happened to you personally and then what your department was charged with doing?

JOHN URQUHART, KING COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: Well, this is Seattle, so actually I was having a cup of coffee. But I work in the King County Courthouse, which is in downtown Seattle, and that building was built in 1914, has not yet been retrofitted, and it was presumed to be very vulnerable to an earthquake. And that building has been evacuated and we won't be going back in probably until tomorrow morning.

BARRETT: What did that do to your operations, though, having to evacuated your staff from the building?

URQUHART: Well, unfortunately, our communication center is headquartered in that building. That means all of our dispatching for our deputies that are working as well as the 911 calls that come in from some 600,000 residents, come into that building, and we have Plan B, if you will and we went to that.

BARRETT: And what were the nature of those 911 calls that you took today from around the county?

URQUHART: Well, as you can well imagine, immediately after an earthquake or any disaster like that everybody wants to call 911, and that, of course, overloads the system and it keeps calls getting through that are true emergencies. So, that caused us some consternation for several hours.

BARRETT: What do you advise people to do in that case? URQUHART: Even now, we're telling people not to call 911 unless it's absolutely emergency. Right now, we're operating on a reduced basis. We don't have the capabilities that we had in our normal center. So, unless it's an absolute emergency, we don't want people calling 911, and certainly not calling just to get information.

BARRETT: Well, what was the nature of the calls? Did you have people who were in a state of emergency? What were people's situations in their homes, their businesses that had them calling for 911?

URQUHART: Well, we had in one particular instance, a man, a 69- year-old man that had a heart attack and unfortunately his wife was not able to get through on the 911 lines and did he die. We had gas leaks in both commercial buildings and in homes and they were calling 911 for that. We had traffic accidents that occurred. We had people calling to find out if bridges were safe. Pretty much the gamut, as I say, for several hours.

BARRETT: And were you surprised favorably or unfavorably by how the city and the county withstood this just in a physical sense? You mentioned the gas, the utilities, all of that.

URQUHART: Well, certainly in physical sense, I was very surprise. For a 6.8 earthquake, to have as little damage as we actually did is very heartening. But even, I think, more important is how everybody acted when everything was said and down.

Certainly, the King County Sheriff's Office, King County government as well as the other local governments have contingency plans for this sort of an activity, but they haven't been tested. Like you say, it's been a long time since we've had an earthquake of this nature and everything fell into place quite nicely, and we were able to reassure the public. We were able to answer 911 calls and take care of the public, which is really the function of government, especially in a situation like this.

BARRETT: Thank you very much, Sergeant John Urquhart of the King County Sheriff's Office. And once again, a sense of relief from both the public and private citizens of Seattle that this situation was not worse.

Back to you, Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Katharine Barrett, thanks again, live in Seattle tonight.

Now, Washington's governor, Gary Locke, has declared a state of emergency for the western part of Washington. That frees up state resources and clears the way to seek federal aid for a clean-up. He also described his own experience at the governor's mansion.


LOCKE: The family is OK. They were in the mansion, getting ready to leave, and everything came toppling off the bookshelves, and TVs off the TV stand came crashing down. Scared the kids. They were pretty shaken up, but major structural damage inside the mansion and outside the mansion. I was in the governor's office at the time having a meeting. So, we had everybody get underneath the desks and the tables and then after there was a large, long vibration, a very heavy vibration, and then the floors seemed to just slide back and forth. It was pretty harrowing.


HEMMER: Governor Locke says there could be billions of dollars in damage and he has also talked to President Bush about federal disaster aid. More on that in a moment.

Now, the main airport in the Seattle area was closed for most of the day. Planes were rerouted. Passengers were frozen. CNN's Rusty Dornin at Sea-Tac: that's the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport with us this evening.

Rusty, how's progress?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, the airport is still running at half capacity; normally about 40 planes land an hour, they are down to about 20. When the tumbler hit this morning there were about 10,000 people in the terminal.

Here to tell us a little bit about what happened and the damage that was sustained is Bob Parker from Sea-Tac. Bob, tell me what happened, even in your office.

BOB PARKER, SEATTLE-TACOMA AIRPORT EMPLOYEE: Well, we felt that first initial jolt you get with an earthquake that tells you the rest of it is on the way in. And people began getting under desks right away, and yelling to one another to get under their desks. And then, the shaking started and it continued for about 30 seconds. It was a good ride.

DORNIN: Within the terminal, there was fairly widespread damage but what was the reason that you had to shut the airport down?

PARKER: The airport issue was -- probably the most significantly structurally damaged area is the FAA control tower. It was has not operational. The FAA has a backup here or nearby that they were able to get into operation on the west side of our airport and get it doing in about two hours, and apparently, they have other material and other equipment they can bring in possibly as early as tomorrow We're still awaiting that word from them.

DORNIN: But it's not a tower, it's actually a mobile unit, like a RV?

PARKER: Right, but the backup unit wouldn't be a tower. You couldn't transport that. It's along the lines, I'm told, of a 5th wheel type of mobile home.

DORNIN: How long will it be before the airport will open completely again? PARKER: Well, that's the FAA's call and I just couldn't tell you.

DORNIN: Thank you very much, Bob Parker from Sea-Tac. So it looks like if you are coming to or leaving from Seattle, make sure you call the airport to see if your flight will be leaving.

Rusty Dornin reporting live from Sea-Tac.

HEMMER: All right, Rusty. Thank you.

Still ahead here on this special report tonight:


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My administration stands ready to help in any way we can.


HEMMER: We'll get specific on how Washington D.C. can help the state of Washington.

Also ahead: science correspondent Ann Kellan explains why such a strong earthquake did not cause even worse damage.

We'll also talk about the business of earthquakes. Who will be helped, and hurt, when the rebuilding dollars start flowing.


HEMMER: President Bush sent the new head of FEMA, that's the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Seattle earlier tonight. Mr. Bush himself was on the road when today's earthquake struck; a two-day trip selling his budget proposal unveiled last night.

CNN's Major Garrett traveling with the president and joins us live from Little Rock with more from there.

Major, what's been the reaction thus far?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Bill. The Bush White House did everything it could today to respond as quickly as it could to the needs of Seattle-Tacoma residents. The Bush White House monitored the situation as the president hop scotched from Omaha, Nebraska where he first learned of the earthquake, to another stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa -- all a part of that effort to whip up support for that budget plan he introduced to special session of Congress last night.

And as you said, when he arrived here in Little Rock, Arkansas, the president announced that he dispatched Joe Allbaugh, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to Washington to get a firsthand account of the damage and to assess for the president the best way to mobilize and deliver services to Seattle and Tacoma residents just as soon as possible. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: My administration stands ready to help in any way we can. I have asked the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Joe Allbaugh, to travel to Seattle to offer our assistance. He is on his way in a couple of hours and he will be traveling with members of the Washington state's congressional delegation.


GARRETT: Couple of quick points to make about the Bush administration response. First of all, Joe Allbaugh is among the president's closest advisers. He was a manager of his presidential campaign. He was placed at FEMA to give the president a very trusted adviser, someone who could go out on scene and coordinate things and tell the president straight away what exactly needed to be done.

This Bush White House understands very clearly, a lesson the Clinton White House learned, is that when disaster strikes the federal government must step in, must step in rapidly, help the state and local jurisdictions deal with all of the collateral damage. Oftentimes, when a disaster strikes like this, Bill, though loss of human life might be minimal as it was in this case, there is tremendous damage to the infrastructure and the federal government is really one of the best sources of help to get that infrastructure back together, which can also stem the flow, or at least reduce the damage to these surrounding economies which is something that clearly this White House is interesting in doing -- Bill

HEMMER: Indeed, Major Garrett from Little Rock tonight. Major, thanks to you.

For more now on how FEMA will provide help, we're joined on the phone by Bruce Price, the director of FEMA's Emergency Support Team. He's also at national headquarters in Washington.

Sir, good evening to you.

BRUCE PRICE, FEMA: Good evening.

Tell us, what word are you getting out of western Washington state tonight, sir?

PRICE: Well, we just had a conference call with our regional office and state and local officials about 9:00 -- a little more than an hour ago. Right now, the word we are getting is that, things are not as bad as we had anticipated. There is a lot of building damages, but the infrastructure seems to have held up pretty well.

HEMMER: Be a little more specific with us if you could, Mr. Price; what are they saying to you on that conference call about damage throughout that area, whether it be Olympia, Seattle, et cetera?

PRICE: The main thing is, they're still doing assessments, and we did have a briefing from the state, we are getting information -- they are getting information from the local jurisdictions but right now it seems to be sketchy in a lot of areas, and we're still waiting to get some hard numbers on some of the things going on out there.

HEMMER: In the state of Washington, it's dark now at this time. What happens tomorrow, sir?

PRICE: Tomorrow, we will doing assessments throughout the area, providing information back to the state, and to us, and let us know if there's anything they will need from the federal perspective.

HEMMER: How far outside of Olympia or Tacoma or Seattle are you getting word on damage reports?

PRICE: Pretty much, not too much outside that immediate area. Pretty much, it's that -- really the area right around the epicenter, Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia itself that seem to have the most damage.

HEMMER: And what strikes you, if anything, about this quake, given the depth of epicenter some say is 30 miles below the surface of the Earth, the damage reports you are hearing, what strikes you if anything?

PRICE: Well, actually, the U.S. Geological survey indicated that the depth was up close to 50 miles.

HEMMER: I'm sorry, 5-0 or 1-5.

PRICE: 5-0.

HEMMER: So that's deeper than what was described earlier.

PRICE: Really, what that had meant is that there is really less damage, based on the magnitude than would normally be expected.

HEMMER: And quickly, in the short time we have left; how many members from your team have made it out there?

PRICE: Well, our regional operations center activated this afternoon, so they're all out there. As the president mentioned, the FEMA director is en route with a Congressional delegation and some other senior staff from headquarters. And they're due to arrive sometime around midnight, and we'll be meeting with the state and local officials tomorrow.

HEMMER: And as you have said and others have said, it could have been worse.

PRICE: It could have been much worse, so -- and we're grateful that it doesn't seem to be major casualties or anything like that in that area.

HEMMER: Keep us updated, OK?

PRICE: OK. Thank you.

HEMMER: Bruce Price from FEMA in Washington, D.C., with us by telephone tonight. Thank you again, sir.

When most of us think the word "earthquake, " California comes to mind. In a moment, see why western Washington, though, does not really surprise a whole lot of people.

Then the underground story: earthquake science made simple. Back with more after this.


HEMMER: The quake that struck western Washington today does not rank among the country's strongest ever. But it is certainly one of the strongest in recent years. For a closer look at earthquake activity in the northwest, CNN's Karen Maginnis has been working through some research for us.

Karen, good evening to you. What have you found out?

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Bill. We did see several earthquakes across the Pacific northwest. Not in recent history, but going back to the late 1800s, they had seismic activity there right around Lake Chelan in Washington state at 7.0.

But they're saying that in 1946 in Puget Sound there was a 7.3. Now, that was an estimate, but they were saying that the waves were flooding the coastal highways there, they were so heavy.

Also in Olympia we saw, in 1949, there was an earthquake there that measured right around 7. There were fatalities with that. Also at Seattle Tacoma, right around the Puget Sound area, about 7 fatalities associated with that.

Now, here is the whole world and the seismicity, meaning: who is likely to experience earthquake activity? And I've outlined the United States here. You can see, take a look at the west and the interior west. These dark-shaded areas, these black-shaded areas, that indicates where earthquakes have been reported over the last 35 years. And there have been, worldwide, more than 358,000 reports of earthquakes at magnitude 2 and above.

Well, you want to see what it looks like? This is a seismogram. The seismograph actually draws this picture out. You see this starting to build here, we start to see it taper off, and then we get that big jolt. Well, that's what we call a P wave. I'll explain that in just one second.

But we are looking at this region that's referred to as the Cascadia subduction zone, and that means that this plate goes underneath the North American plate. And so you start to get that movement.

That initial shock is what is called the P wave, and then there's the S wave, the secondary wave, that causes all that damage. And guess what, Bill? Coming up for this weekend it's going to be fairly messy. We've got storms about to move on shore. HEMMER: All right. We will watch that in addition. Karen, thank you. Let's continue our discussion regarding the science of the quake today. That earthquake that struck Seattle, not the variety we typically see on the west coast. Let's talk more about it. Science correspondent Ann Kellan with us this evening. Good evening to you. Tell us why it is not typical.

ANN KELLAN, CNN SCIENCE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's actually typical of the Pacific northwest, but not of California, where we see most of the earthquakes. In California the plates rub together and they're much more shallow. They not as deep.

In this case, what happened is the quake -- two plates, one went under the other. It's called an intraslab quake and it can be deadly.


KELLAN (voice-over): The tremor that shook the Seattle and Olympia areas in Washington is the same kind of earthquake that killed dozens in Mexico in 1999 and claimed 1,000 lives in El Salvador this past January. These poorly understood tremors, called intraslab quakes, pose a special threat to the Seattle area.

STEVE KIRBY, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: The thing that's of interest here is that the larger of these intraslab earthquakes occur right beneath the urban corridor. So they're right beneath the feet of where people live.

KELLAN: Intraslab quakes begin deep in the earth in undersea areas called subduction zones. In a subduction zone, one slab of the earth's surface is slowly sliding under another plate. As it sinks, it's under enormous pressure, and it's heated by the intense temperatures deep inside the earth. That causes chemical and physical changes in the slab, which release trapped water. The water lets the rock crack along ancient fault lines, setting off an earthquake inside the slab, 30 to 180 miles below earth's surface.

The quakes do less damage at that depth than they do at the surface, but even so, they can be powerful and deadly. Quakes of this type in Washington state, in 1965, and 1949, each killed eight people.

Because they begin so deep below the surface, intraslab quakes are harder to study. Scientists believe this latest one in Seattle occurred about 30 miles underground.

HEMMER: More on a definite epicenter in a moment, but have they gotten better, in terms of construction, in places like Seattle? You're shaking your head yes. I assume that's the correct answer.

KELLAN: Absolutely. Right. That is absolutely a correct answer, and probably reason there weren't deaths in this quake, because the building code got improved in the 1970s. And they say it's seismology code, and you'll find that most of the damage occurred to buildings that were built before those, the mid-1970s.

HEMMER: You touched on it, Ann, in your story there, but the depth of that epicenter -- What can we say about the impact or the overall destruction because of this quake, given that depth?

KELLAN: Well, you hear different things from the researchers, but basically, because it was so far down, it probably didn't cause the shaking and the damage that a more shallow quake would cause. In 1994, for example, the L.A. quake caused $40 billion in damage. It took 72 lives, and that was 11 miles deep. This is 30 miles deep.

HEMMER: We're going to talk with the mayor Los Angeles shortly, here, and bring back some memories of '94. What they saw then and what they've learned since, too. So, interesting stuff. Ann Kellan, thanks.

KELLAN: You're welcome.

HEMMER: When we continue tonight on our special report, something we all understand: that's money. Companies you know that may be affected, and companies you've never heard of that may hit the jackpot.

Also, a concrete solution to earthquake dangers, when our CNN special does return.


HEMMER: So many different cameras caught on videotape that quake that hit earlier today. We'll have a look back coming up shortly with more angles from what happened in Western Washington today.

Meanwhile, back to our special report on the 6.8-magnitude quake today. The force of that quake left roads and bridges unusable and many buildings damaged. Washington's governor says the bill for repairs could total in the billions. Some of America's best-known companies could join those making insurance claims as they and figure out how much damage was done.

Steve Young of CNN Financial News now reports.


STEVE YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seattle is home to three of America's most important companies: Boeing, Amazon and Microsoft.

Microsoft's Bill Gates was talking to educators when seismographs started squiggling and decorations on the Seattle stage started slipping. Microsoft's campus shook. Late in the day, the company reported minor structural damage to three buildings.

Boeing sent all employees home, but hopes work will resume in the morning.

Amazon has a big distribution center in the area, but it's normally used just during the peak December holiday season.

Highways seem OK. But there are damaged buildings throughout the region. The insurance industry is hoping for moderate losses, but it's underestimated its exposure before.

DAN DONMOYER, PRESIDENT, PERSONAL INSURANCE FEDERATION OF CALIFORNIA: We will not have a good assessment of damage for some time. But within a day or two, we'll have a better sense of the depth and the magnitude, the geography impacted, and that will help us determine how many potential policy-holders will need assistance.

YOUNG: Historically, insurance industry costs have been soaring in earthquakes: San Francisco 1989. That quake more than a decade ago racked up more than $430 million in losses. But the next big California quake has piled up catastrophic losses of more than $15 billion. That's four times the combined cost of California quakes in the preceding quarter century.

GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: We are still making repairs to the Bay Bridge after the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) earthquake in 18 -- 1989. So sometimes putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again takes a very long time.

YOUNG: Standard homeowners insurance does not cover quakes. Businesses take more precautions.

ROBERT HARTWIG, INSURANCE INFORMATION INSTITUTE: Larger businesses tend to insure themselves. And for very, very large losses, they tend to purchase reinsurance, which will cap their losses. But for the large companies like Boeing, it would be expected that they would retain the vast majority of any losses they suffered there for themselves.

YOUNG (on camera): Using the Los Angeles earthquake as a yardstick, if you add in the cost to uninsured homeowners, the total cost of reconstruction could wind up being triple whatever it winds up costing the insurance industry.

Steve Young, CNN Financial News, New York.


HEMMER: And clearly, rebuilding after a quake can be a daunting task. For insight on the things a major American city must do, Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan joins us live tonight from Southern California.

Mr. Mayor, good evening to you.


HEMMER: Take us back to January of 1994 and the devastating quake that hit your city. What do you remember?

RIORDAN: Well, it was 4:31 in the morning on January 17th, and I was lying in bed sleeping and it felt like somebody lifted my bed 10 feet off the ground and dropped it. And I stood up on the floor and my first thought was what's a mayor supposed to do, and I had only been mayor four months.

And, of course, the first thing I did was try to call in to the police department, fire department but the phones didn't work. So, I drove myself down to our emergency operation center, which is four stories under city hall, has small desks for all 40 departments of the city, room for the fire and police department. And I started -- an axiom then was if you can get forgiveness much easier than you can get permission, so go ahead and do what you have.

We commandeered intersections in Culver City, other cities for detours. Nobody ever criticized us and we were back much farther in four to six months than San Francisco was seven years after Loma Prieta.

HEMMER: The bottom line there, though, is do it until somebody says no, I think, based on your answer there.

RIORDAN: Yes, and we had signs all over saying just do it.

HEMMER: And tell us, the damage in '94 was much more significant than what we saw today, but a lot of people in Southern California, yourself included, this is not a criticism, just to point out a fact here are quick to talk about the pride and how city was restored quickly. Why did that happen, based on your previous answer?

RIORDAN: I don't know. You know, it's amazing because we'd been through this Rodney King situation, riots and a recession and people were downtrodden a bit, and all of sudden, this earthquake rose us up and with confidence we got up, we repaired our businesses and broken bridges and just got going. And ever since then, it's been uphill all the way.

HEMMER: Then Mr. Mayor, what do you say to the folks up the coast in Seattle who went through this today?

RIORDAN: Approach it with confidence. Pick one person to be in charge of the reconstruction, approach it with confidence. Also, what you should do is approach the federal government for waiver of a lot of banking laws so that people can get loans to repair their businesses, their houses quickly and I can tell you the people from the state of Washington are wonderful. If they keep their heads high, if they keep going, they'll come back in no time.

HEMMER: I understand you're a politician and not a scientist, but embellish me here just a little bit, are we getting better at predicting quakes and are we getting better, again, with science and technology to prepare ourselves in case the big ones do come again down the line?

RIORDAN: Well, we're getting a lot smarter as to how to prepare ourselves by putting in these apparatuses into tall buildings where the building will move on rollers and things if there are quakes. We are also better at putting struts into tilt-up buildings so that the roofs doesn't fly off. We also do better on emergency preparedness, but I'm not so sure that we predict quakes that well. HEMMER: Something is still a bit of an unanswered question and an outstanding issue. Mayor Richard Riordan, live in L.A., thanks for stopping by tonight.

RIORDAN: Thank you very much, Bill.

HEMMER: OK, sir.

Next here on our special report: How the implosion of the Kingdome in Seattle helped scientists understand the potential for quakes in that part of the country. A fascinating study just ahead here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was really scary at first because our chairs started shaking in the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I was in the kitchen and I just ran into the doorway because there weren't really any desks. And I -- was like shaking because I was like, so rattled up.

HEMMER: And fortunately they are all okay tonight. Almost a year a go, back in March of last year, the destruction of a sports stadium gave scientists a rather unique opportunity to see how an earthquake might impact the Seattle area.

Let's talk more about the study, a fascinating issue here, Menlo Park California seismologist Tom Brocher by telephone now. He was the chief scientist of what is known as the Kingdome Ship's project.

Sir, good evening to you.

TOM BROCHER, SEISMOLOGIST: Good evening to you.

HEMMER; Tell us first, why Seattle? What were you looking for with these tests to lead this experiment, sir?

BROCHER: Well this was a study to look at whether we could use these demolitions that are being done, especially of large sports stadiums, to tell us about how future earthquakes might shake the ground in Seattle and other earthquake prone regions.

HEMMER: Now we're watching the implosion of the Kingdom again from March of last year. What did you test, sir, that day?.

BROCHER: What we did is before the implosion happened, we put out 200 earthquake recorders all through Seattle at spacings of about eight or nine blocks a part. So, really a very dense grid of recorders right through Seattle.

HEMMER: So, you did this to set up your experiment. You went ahead recorded your information, and after all the imploding was done what did you find out?

BROCHER: Well we, what we found was that the river that runs through Seattle, called the Duwamish river and it flows into the Puget Sound. And where it flows in is a port of Seattle.

We found that the shaking all along that river was higher than elsewhere, other parts of Seattle, and so that we would have predicted that shaking in along that river would have been higher than other parts of Seattle today. And we've heard a few reports that there have been some damage along that river valley.

HEMMER: So then based on what you have heard sir, and again the reports are somewhat incomplete, the story is still barely 12 hours old, what have you concluded based on the study you did a year ago?

BROCHER: Well it a was study to look at how eff -- how well these building demolitions -- how well they mimic an earthquake. And I guess we got better data than we thought we would. So that I think we can use this kind of thing in the future.

As I said, we did discover the probability of higher shaking along this one river in Seattle, and we found one other spot near the campus, the University of Washington campus, that might shake a little bit harder than the surrounding neighborhoods in the next big earthquake, so...

HEMMER: That's something we will watch from here on out then. Tom Brocher by telephone in Menlo Park. Sir, thanks for your time this evening. A fascinating study done there again almost a year ago in Seattle.

Buildings can be made resistant to the force of a quake, but that does not mean there won't still be some damage. CNN's David George now on research to make a strong building material even stronger.


DAVID GEORGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This concrete beam being tested in a North Carolina laboratory, is made of steel reinforced concrete that's engineered to be flexible. But even the most flexible concrete will fail if subjected to too much stress.

That's what happens in earthquakes, like the one in August that killed more than 20,000 people in Turkey.

NEVEN KRSTULOVIC, N.C. STATE UNIVERSITY: What happened there, the columns, which are spine of the building, they are the ones who collapsed and automatically the entire house came down like a house of cards squeezing everybody in between.

GEORGE: Professor Neven Krstulovic says research at North Carolina State University could lead to buildings that are virtually earthquake proof. They'd be constructed out of a new kind of concrete that he calls Simcon. Simcon is concrete reinforced with mats made of stainless steel fiber.

Subject an eight-inch cylinder of ordinary high-stress concrete to 8,000 pounds per square inch of pressure and here's what happens.

A cylinder made of Simcon crumbles and bends, but does not break. The difference is the mats of stainless steel that form Simcon's core.

(on camera): The mats come in big roles, each containing countless numbers of stainless steel wires. Just think, these little things could be the key to making buildings safer in the 21 century.

KRSTULOVIC: This here is a column...

GEORGE (voice-over): Professor Krstulovic says buildings could be built with pieces of Simcon bolted into the joints where vertical columns and horizontal floor beams come together. In an earthquake the joints would fail slowly, rather than shattering, acting like a fuse, preventing catastrophic collapse.

KRSTULOVIC: You can see the fibers in here that are still keeping the pieces together.

GEORGE: After an earthquake, the broken fuse could be removed and replaced.

Krstulovic says building with Simcon would not be more expensive than conventional reinforced concrete, and might even cost less.

David George, CNN, Raleigh, North Carolina.


HEMMER: And if there's something you still need to know about that Seattle quake today we have a few Web site addresses that can help also, coming up next.

And the most compelling sights and sounds, from a rather unforgettable day straight ahead here.


HEMMER: Quickly we want to recap the story that happened today in the Seattle area. One woman is dead, 28 others injured and the western half of Washington state now under a state of emergency tonight.

The 6.8 magnitude tremor broke windows and caused skyscrapers to sway, and was felt from Vancouver, British Columbia in the north, down to Portland, Oregon and places further south and east, to Salt Lake City, Utah.

We now want to turn to CNN's Stephen Frazier who's been surfing the Web, in search of the best quake information sites online.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An awful lot of information available early on the Internet, Bill, and we'd like to show you some of the Web sites that have the most information now.

This is the first one: the U.S. Geological Survey. If you'd like to go to it yourself, you can find this Web site at And let me explain now what this is. It's a map of intensity as experienced by people who lived in the area. They dialed in on the Internet and then explained what they were feeling, and what kind of damage they saw.

The map was put together then using these colors as a code for how intense things got. Some of the -- the colors that you don't want to see are these severe, these brighter oranges turning towards reds.

Now let's look at the map itself. There aren't too many of those. Happily, fewer of those than there were earlier in the day. And let me -- because it's hard to see, let me explain what we've got. This is, of course, Puget Sound in here now. This is Olympia, the city that we've been talking about all day. Seattle, a little farther north, and some of the areas of brightest concentration right around Olympia. Another pocket there, of bright orange.

This, earlier in the day, was a much darker orange, but apparently they backed away the intensity experienced by people living a living a little bit out in the suburbs.

And it's interesting now to look, too, at how dramatically the mountain ranges in this area soaked up the energy of this earthquake. Here are the Olympia Mountains, these are the Cascades. Beyond those, or outside of those, much less activity reported.

Finally, we want to let you know that there are some big hills here. This is Mount Ranier and Mount Saint Helens, famous for volcano eruptions some time ago. So, in addition to earthquake activity, there is volcanic activity in this part of the world.

Now, some other Web sites to tell you about. There's one of the Alaska and western U.S. -- Tsunami warning center. Here's how to go there: Tsunami -- T-S-U -- it's a Japanese word meaning tidal wave. And because the epicenter of this earthquake was so close to large bodies of water, that was a potential threat, but the good news here was that they were able to say very early on that a tsunami will not be generated by this earthquake. So people living on the coastline -- OK, don't have any additional things to worry about there.

And this national earthquake information center is important for its historical sense what's going on here. They do point out here in the area that we've blued that there was a quake 1949, -- very close to this one, the epicenter of this one -- which was a magnitude 7.1, which killed eight people and caused extensive landslides in the Olympia-Tacoma region. A lot of history available on this Web site, and you can also, again, dial in and tell them what you experienced.

And then, finally, we want to let you know about, which has been doing a good job of updating the facts here. This site was the first to say that as many as 20 people have been hurt, four seriously.

On this Web site you get the latest facts, there's a photo gallery here with pictures generated by our affiliate KING TV. There is a history of earthquakes worldwide, and this story is a long one. When you get down to the bottom of it, the most interesting feature of all, perhaps -- a dozen links to other Web sites that are related to geological activity or earthquakes themselves, or specifically, this quake in Seattle today.

So, a lot of information, Bill, on the internet. Easy to access.

HEMMER: Stephen Frazier, thank you.

One of the many things that struck us today is the number of cameras which captured the 30-plus seconds of action. We're going to pause for a moment so we can, again, watch and listen to what videotape shows and tells us about today's quake.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Brian Wood. This is up in the mayor's office. They're waiting to hear from the mayor. And Brian, holding on to the camera and the cameraman, making sure things don't fall down.

BRIAN WOOD, KIRO CORRESPONDENT: We're in downtown Seattle now. We're at the top floor of the municipal building. The building just shook and swayed like you wouldn't believe.

PAUL SCHELL, MAYOR OF SEATTLE: At approximately 10:50 or quarter to 11, we -- our city experienced an earthquake that -- depending on what news report and what the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 6.2 up to 7 magnitude.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen...

BILL STEELE, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, SEISMOLOGY: We're lucky it was a deep earthquake, we're lucky that there's unlikely to be felt after shocks, and that we can begin to put things back together again.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Seriously, what did you think was going on? Did you know right away?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have never been through anything like this before.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We're on a fault.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I wasn't sure what was happening at first. I -- I don't know. I've never experienced anything like this before.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: First I thought the building was jiggling a little bit because of that. And as the jiggling became shaking and much stronger, and the building started to creak and pop, I really thought it was going to come down around my ears.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like, like, whoa, it's kind of funny like that, though. You never know what to expect out of Seattle. It's -- you know, it's something real bad. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Panels started slapping -- 2,000-pound panels. Traffic started getting (UNINTELLIGIBLE) everywhere. People running down the street. It looked like a major crash. It was just chaos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm on the third floor in the main hospital, and it started to shake and I knew immediately it was an earthquake. And then, all of a sudden, there was this big crack and the whole concrete wall just split into -- shattered into the pieces and started to tumble down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like the control tower may be the most seriously damaged part of the airport, and it's a very tall, narrow structure. That would not be unsurprising.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plaster was falling from the ceiling, dust was flying up. My employees were really terrified by the whole incident and we really feared that the building was going to collapse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was watching the building below me and I saw a whole bunch of stuff started falling. I was watching the building flex and I dropped my belt, started running, got some guys, forgot which way the best way to get out of there, and just hauled ass down the scaffold.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a big quake.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was powerful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doorway is the best.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rock-n-roll. Here to stay.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What happened when the earthquake hit?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I goed under the table.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The teacher told everyone to go under the table? Was it scary?


UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: It was really scary at first because our chairs started shaking in the room.

UNIDENTIFIED BOY:Well, I was in the kitchen and I just ran in the doorway because there weren't really any desks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very concerned that there could be landslides following the event, and so we've got a team of geologists that's left here. They've chartered an airplane. They're going to go and fly South Puget Sound to look for potential landslides. They're going to be looking for any evidence of cracking on, say, some of our coastal bluffs. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The operative word here is relief. The citizens of Seattle are to be commended for behaving very sensibly in a very frightening situation. We did have lots of people in situations where the buildings were shaking quite fiercely. People kept their heads. There was no panic in our city, so we've been very pleased so far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have declared a state of emergency throughout all of western Washington so that we can repair things as quickly as possible and get life to normal as soon a possible.


HEMMER: What a day it was.

And that's it for our special report tonight. I'm Bill Hemmer, once again, live at the CNN center in Atlanta.

Stay tuned. "SPORTS TONIGHT" with Fred and Vince follows us here. Hope you have a good evening. So long.



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