75 years ago: 7.1 magnitude quake strikes between Olympia, Tacoma

As of Saturday, it’s been 75 years since a large earthquake shook the Pacific Northwest, toppling chimneys, breaking gas lines and collapsing brick walls.

At 11:55 a.m. on April 13, 1949, the 7.1 magnitude quake hit between Olympia and Tacoma, according to HistoryLink.

Eight people died, including two young people -- an 11-year-old and an 18-year-old -- both boys. Dozens more were hurt when the ground shook for about 30 seconds.

The most damage was seen from Seattle to Chehalis, with 40% of the latter city’s homes and buildings damaged.

In addition, eight buildings at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia were damaged.

In King County, the damage varied.

One of the areas in the county with the most shaking was Auburn, where four blocks of the downtown business district were extremely damaged.

The worst shaking also extended to Richmond Beach and parts of Seattle, where some of the affected areas included Pioneer Square, where most buildings had some damage. Three Seattle schools had to be condemned and cracks in the ground opened near Green Lake.

Gas lines broke in 100 places in the city, and nearly 2,000 brick walls came down, or were damaged.

“Many houses built on filled areas were demolished and in some places the ground turned to quicksand causing floors to crack and basements to fill with silt. Cracks opened in the ground, some spouting water six feet high,” author Greg Lange wrote on HistoryLink.

In Richmond Beach, there was considerable damage, with fallen chimneys, cracked walls and broken windows.

This story was written from information from HistoryLink.org.

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