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Yukon's next big quake isn't due for another 30 years, scientists say

Local insurance brokers have seen a spike in interest of earthquake insurance after last years quake

Yukon Geological Survey spends first year after 6.2-magnitude quake predicting the next big one

Debris is sent tumbling down Whitehorse's clay cliffs. Whitehorse resident Angie Dickson took this photo after the second earthquake hit on May 1, 2017. (Angie Dickson)

A 6.2 magnitude earthquake shook the Yukon damaging buildings last May, knocking objects out of place, and creating power outages.

But scientists say it's likely the next one won't happen for another three decades.

"About every 30 years is when we will get something of that magnitude," said Maurice Colpron, head of bedrock geology for the Yukon Geological Survey. 

Since last year's quake, Colpron and other scientists with the geological survey have been researching how often earthquakes occur to predict the next significant one. 

Yukon has up to thousands of earthquakes a year but only three to five a year will higher than a 5.0 magnitude and be felt by people on the ground, Colpron explained.

"Not all of them would be felt in Whitehorse," said Colpron.

The reason last year's quake was so prevalent in Whitehorse was because the trajectory was moving toward the city, Colpron said.  

The most active area for earthquakes in the region are in the Saint Elias Mountains southwest of Yukon and the area west of Haines Junction to the Pacific ocean.

Maurice Colpron is head of bedrock geology for the Yukon Geological Survey and studied the frequency of earthquakes in the Yukon to determine that the next big one is due about every 30 years. (Jackie McKay/CBC )

"That's where the vast majority of earthquakes are occurring," said Colpron. This area is where the tectonic plates come together.

Spike in earthquake insurance

Local insurance broker T.A. Firth & Son Ltd. said there has been a "definite" increase in people asking about earthquake insurance and getting quotes.

Shellane Kostelnik, the office manager, said she added earthquake insurance to about four accounts since last year's earthquake. More than she has sold in the last 10 years.

"If it cranked it up a few it could be some damage done," said John Small, a Yukon resident who recently received a quote on earthquake insurance. He remembers his house shaking and things rattling around during the quake.

He said it would cost an extra $500 a month and says "it could be worth it" in the event of a another large quake.

Yukon resident, Corey Cartwright, said he was thinking about the earthquake yesterday wondering if we are due for another one.

"There is no way you can be prepared for it," said Cartwright, who has never looked into getting earthquake insurance.

Despite the unlikely event of a catastrophic earthquake hitting the Yukon, Colpron believes everyone should be prepared for a large earthquake by having a kit ready with 72 hours worth of supplies packed away.

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