Did you feel that? A decade after the capital's 'big one'

At 1:41 p.m. on June 23, 2010, a 5.0-magnitude earthquake with an epicentre near Val-des-Bois, Que., shook the capital region like it hadn't been shaken for 65 years.

5.0-magnitude earthquake caused damage and some panic, but no injuries

From the archives: It’s been 10 years since an earthquake shook Ottawa-Gatineau

2 years ago
Duration 1:42
On June 23, 2010 an earthquake struck western Quebec and rattled the National Capital Region, damaging office buildings and schools.

One decade ago this afternoon, Ottawa started shaking.

The 5.0-magnitude earthquake, its epicentre near Val-des-Bois, Que., about 60 kilometres north of Ottawa, struck at 1:41:41 p.m. on June 23, 2010, and was felt as far away as Windsor, Ont., and some U.S. states.

"It felt like someone set off dynamite below us. Pictures fell from the walls and lamps got knocked off their pedestals," Geneviève Blais, who lived at Hawk Lake, Que., about five kilometres from the earthquake's epicentre, told CBC at the time.

Thirty seconds later, it was all over.

It was the most powerful earthquake to strike the capital in 65 years. According to data from Earthquakes Canada, two aftershocks followed that night and the next day, a 3.3-magnitude and a 3.2-magnitude. 

There were no injuries reported at the time, but the original quake was powerful enough to cause damage to buildings throughout the region.

In Ottawa, the quake shattered windows and knocked down a brick chimney near city hall. A church in Gracefield, Que., suffered considerable damage, and a section of Highway 307 near Bowman, Que., collapsed.

Lessons learned

Seismologists and disaster experts were concerned that when the earthquake struck, people started pouring out of office buildings and into the streets of downtown Ottawa — precisely the wrong thing to do because it placed them in harm's way of falling glass and debris.

A decade later, first responders are keenly aware it could happen again. Last year, more than 600 volunteers participated in a disaster simulation that involved searching for injured people using boats and low-flying planes, as well as carrying out medical evacuations along damaged roads.

With files from Amanda Pfeffer

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