2008 Alanson earthquake

The Alanson earthquake occurred in northern Michigan on July 21, 2008 at exactly 7:20 a.m. local time. The epicenter was located within the small town of Alanson, Michigan, just 20 miles south of Ste. Marie. With a magnitude of 5.4, the quake was the largest to shake the Les Cheneaux Seismic Zone since the earthquake of 1818 and the largest to date.

Earthquake Edit

The epicenter of the earthquake was located in the town of Alanson, Michigan - a suburban community approximately 20 miles south/southwest of downtown Ste. Marie. The quake was the most powerful to strike the Les Cheneaux Seismic Zone since the earthquake of 1818, and the most powerful since.

Injuries and fatalities Edit

By 7:45 a.m., it was reported that 63 people had been killed by the initial quake. 29 of these were caused in downtown when scaffolding from the construction of the Andrew Jackson Tower collapsed onto the street below. 19 known deaths were reported in Vieux Ste. Marie when buildings not up to earthquake code crumbled in a matter of seconds. Both the northbound and southbound bridges carrying Interstate 75 from Paquet Street north to downtown collapsed in two locations, sending vehicles violently to the ground, killing 6 and injuring about 180 others.

Counts of the injuries of the public did not arise until the days after the quake, and eventually it was revealed that 4,445 were injured, with approximately 600 of these being life-threatening.

Damage Edit

The shock shattered many windows in Ste. Marie. The initial tremor ruptured several gas lines in Central City and Vieux Ste. Marie, which were not up to modern building standards. This triggered several fires, most notably a chemical plant on the eastern side of the city. Many old buildings not retrofitted to withstand quakes crumbled within seconds. The main power supply from the north crossing over Bay Ste. Marie, was cut off, leaving 500,000 customers (95% of the city) without power. The City of Ste. Marie barred power companies from restoring power until all lines were removed from debris piles to prevent fires. Power was restored for all but 20,000 customers by 5:00 p.m. on July 23rd, and by midnight power was restored to all customers in the metropolitan area.

Television stations were knocked off the air immediately after the quake, and many were not restored until 11:00 a.m., the exception being KSTM-TV, receiving a Peabody award for their news coverage. Communication lines were knocked out until the next day at about noon. Poorer residents of fire-stricken neighborhoods flocked to the richer Central City and Downtown and looting was an issue, particularly at the Walmart store at 1244 Barrin Street. National Guard troops were deployed from nearby Kewaunee immediately, and within hours assistance arrived from Traverse City and Gaylord. They would assist the local police and help clear streets of debris so help could be sent to trapped victims.

At the time, building codes required buildings to be bolted to their foundations, but many were neglected by authorities, and these buildings failed. Approximately 115,000 structures were deemed uninhabitable by the city in the days following the quake. 220,000 residents were forced to vacate their unsafe homes by August 14th. Many of these residents temporarily took up residence in local hotels or received a small trailer to live in from FEMA. An estimated 10,000 people planned to leave their homes and not rebuild.

Impact Edit

The earthquake of 2008 brought many to the realization that Ste. Marie was not safe from earthquakes, and that building codes needed to be taken seriously. On March 13, 2004, a research group based out of Northwestern University and Purdue University, funded by the United States Geological Survey, reported in the journal Science and in other journals that the Les Cheneaux system may be "shutting down" and that tectonic stress may have been be accumulating elsewhere. This reinforced a generally accepted fact that earthquakes were not to be feared by residents of northern Michigan.

Beginning in January 2009 and concluding in March 2010, the 2009 Les Cheneaux earthquake exercise was a fictional earthquake scenario inspired by the 2008 earthquake and the failure of local government and infrastructure. The Department of Disaster Science and Management at the University of Michigan, which hosted the study, desired to drive planning and increase understanding and awareness of earthquakes in Ste. Marie. They sought to "fill the cracks in earthquake preparedness" and prevent even worse damage and suffering than what was seen in 2008.

The earthquake left Ste. Marie in shambles, and normal business activity did not resume fully for 2 weeks. Most schools in the area, especially private, did not resume fall classes until early October or later. Decreased activity led to shortages in cars made by Chrysler until the beginning of 2009. Water shortages in late 2008 were also common throughout the eastern half of the nation. Restaurants in particular did not reopen until early to mid 2009; a handful of locations did not reopen at all. Generally, however, most businesses were operational at the capacity they had been before the earthquake by November 2009, over a year after the earthquake.

Political scandal Edit

Mayor Rod Blagojevich was widely criticized due to the city's response to the disaster, and was blamed for many failures in municipal infrastructure. In the months following the earthquake Blagojevich was found to have given favorable contracts and false income tax returns to a company that repaired his Central City home. Various other "kickbacks" were given to several companies in the city, for personal or business reasons that Blagojevich deemed necessary, including an aviation company and several restaurants. Over Christmas in 2008, Blagojevich quietly added expenses of a Hawaii trip to the contract of an architecture firm working with the city.[1]

Blagojevich later blamed most of these mistakes on stress connected to dealing with a city left in peril after a Mw 5.4 earthquake. Nevertheless, he was recalled from office on January 29, 2009, and replaced by Pat Quinn. On August 17, 2010, he was convicted on one of the 24 federal charges, a charge of lying to the FBI, and the jury was hung on 23 other counts. Federal prosecutors reduced the number of counts for Blagojevich's retrial, and on June 27, 2011, he was found guilty of 17 of the 20 remaining charges, not guilty on one, and no verdict was rendered by the jury on two counts. On Wednesday, December 7, 2011, Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison. He reported to the prison in Colorado on March 15, 2012.[2]

References Edit

  1. Rod Blagojevich Earthquake Kickbacks
  2. Corruption Charges of Rod Blagojevich