The group that monitors earthquakes in Alberta has confirmed two seismic events occurred just before midnight on Monday and says they may be connected to ground shifting in Alberta Beach.
Multiple residents on the south side of Lac Ste. Anne, Alta. were woken up Monday night by what sounded like something falling onto their houses.
“I heard a loud crashing and a loud groaning. First we thought someone broke in and then we thought ice must’ve just fallen off the roof,” Karson Smith said on Tuesday. When his family couldn’t find the source of the noise, they went back to bed.
But the next morning, the Smiths discovered a large amount of damage in and around their Alberta Beach cabin.
“I tried to open the back door to check outside and I couldn’t open the door to get to the lakefront,” said Sharon Smith. “Then I looked at the wall and there was a gigantic crack.”
The crack runs the length of the wall, and up onto the ceiling.
When the family went outside, they discovered much larger cracks in the ground, one large enough to put an entire arm into.
“It’s been cracking and splitting and heaving all day long. So I followed the crack and the crack went all the way along the lake,” Sharon said.
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The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) oversees seismic activity in the province. The AER’s Geological Survey branch confirmed that two seismic events of approximately 2.0 magnitude each occurred at approximately 11:45 p.m. on Monday.
“We are unable to confirm the exact location of both events due to their low magnitude and the sparsity of nearby seismic stations. However, initial information shows that both events are consistent with reports of an earthquake near the town of Alberta Beach,” AER spokesperson Jordan Fitzgerald said.
“The small magnitude of these events makes it difficult to say definitively what type of seismic event occurred. However, our staff believe the seismic event may have been a natural earthquake or an ice quake. Ice quakes are naturally occurring and happen when cold winter temperatures cause groundwater to freeze quickly, causing the ground in the area to suddenly crack and make popping sounds.”
Sharon was happy to have an explanation for the damage to her property, even though it surprised her.
“This is Alberta, I never thought there would be an earthquake here. All the people around the lake, when they were coming and talking about all the different damages and what they heard — and everybody being awake in the middle of the night — thought that maybe it was just the ice buckling.”
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There’s also an opening visible on the lake and a one-metre-tall hill of dirt that formed on their neighbour’s normally flat yard overnight.
The Smiths’ other neighbour’s foundation buckled, and their brand new deck had shifted off its supports.
A door to one cabin was stuck because the foundation had shifted so much, residents couldn’t get inside.
The Smiths quickly notified the natural gas company, worried their pipes might be at risk. At around 6 p.m. two of the family’s gas lines were capped because there was significant tension on them due to the shifting.
Creaking noises continued to emanate from residences on Tuesday evening.
According to the AER’s map of seismic events in Alberta, this marks the first time any activity has happened in the vicinity of Alberta Beach since 2008 and 2009, when two earthquakes were noted near Barrhead.
Alberta Beach is roughly 70 kilometres west of Edmonton.