7.3 Magnitude earthquake struck near Courtenay June 23, 1946
Lawrence Burns was 17 years old on June 23, 1946 and working at his dad’s bus maintenance yard at the corner of 4th St. and Duncan Avenue in Courtenay that Sunday morning.
“And I could see was glass breaking in the windows and looked up Duncan Avenue sort of north and chimneys collapsing one after the other” Burns told CHEK News as he remember that day.
A 7.3 magnitude earthquake had just struck near Courntenay causing damage up and down the island like including the collapse of a road near Sayward and damaged buildings in Port Alberni.
However the Comox valley was hardest hit.
Ron Webber was five years old and living with his parents in Cumberland when the ground shook that day.
“Came out of the bedroom and watched a beautiful clock come smashing down off the wall, and my mom and dad come out of the bedroom and we’re all wondering what’s going on and we opened the door and of course you could see the hydro lines in front of our house skipping like skipping ropes” said Webber.
The epicentre of the 7.3 magnitude earthquake was about 18 km from downtown Courtenay in the Forbidden Plateau area.
Judy Hagen, a local historian has written extensively about the earthquake.
“The chimneys were all over the place and as someone said to me later when they were serving me tea and they’d say this is the only cup and saucer that was left after the earthquake” said Hagen.
One of the chimneys that fell was at Courtenay Elementary School going right through a roof into a classroom and onto the desk of Lawrence Burn’s sister.
“We often said had it been a school day, there would have been a lot of casualties and in particular my sister there, right there” said Burns.
Two people died in the quake. One man suffered a heart attack while another drowned after being thrown from his boat near Deep Bay.
Emergency Management officials want the anniversary to be a reminder to have an earthquake kit and to earthquake-proof your home.
“It’s not homes collapsing on people that kill or injure most people, it’s the secondary hazards like when things fall off their shelves or shelves in their homes tipping over and landing on them” said Howie Siemens of the Comox Valley Emergency Program.