This gives more and more credence to
Earthquake registering 4.3 reported in Quebec
Published On Wed Mar 16 2011
MONTREAL—A minor earthquake, with an estimated 4.3 magnitude, was apparently strong enough to bring down the federal website intended to keep Canadians informed about quakes.
An earthquake between Ottawa and Montreal caused the ground to shake for about 10 seconds as it struck a few kilometres east of Hawkesbury, Ont., Wednesday at around 1:36 p.m.
The quake was felt as far as 100 kilometres away — in places like Ottawa, Cornwall, Ont., and the western suburbs of Montreal.
There were no immediate reports of damage.
The one notable casualty was the website for Earthquakes Canada, the federal monitoring body.
The last time there was a quake in the region, last June, the federal site was entirely frozen.
This time it was only partially paralyzed.
Many visitors seeking information after the quake hit were greeted by blank screens. By 2 p.m., the site was occasionally working, but only intermittently. It appeared to be running smoothly again later in the afternoon.
The bugs brought back memories of last year’s 5.0 quake, where staffers scrambled for more than two hours to find a temporary solution and it took four hours before the whole site was back in full working order.
Documents obtained by The Canadian Press, under Access to Information, revealed that the federal site was overrun by demand last year.
At the time, an official with Natural Resources Canada admitted the crash raised questions about how well prepared the agency is to communicate with Canadians online in the event of a sudden natural disaster — such as an earthquake or tsunami.
The department explained Wednesday that it has been making improvements to the website, in phases, and that capacity is increasing.
It also said that, despite some complications Wednesday, the site managed to provide information to about 1.7 million visitors per hour. In addition, the government used Twitter to keep the public informed.
“More improvements — as per the phased plan — are being implemented and will be completed in a short period of time,” said a statement from department spokesman Paul Duchesne.
Most importantly, emergency notifications to response organizations do not rely on the web server and were not affected by Wednesday’s technical issues, he said.
Natural Resources Canada estimates that 100 to 150 earthquakes are recorded annually in the region, known as the Western Quebec Seismic Zone.
“Most of them are too small to be felt,” Stephen Halchuk, a department seismologist, said Wednesday. “Today’s event is a bit larger.”
He said quakes bigger than 4.0 magnitude only rumble in the zone every two or three years.
“Today’s earthquake was widely felt in the region between Ottawa and Montreal, but certainly not large enough to do any significant damage,” Halchuk said.
As for the website, Halchuk doesn’t manage it.
But he said an increased volume of visitors at the time of the quake might have affected its performance.
“We had taken steps to improve our (website’s) capacity, so I’m not sure about the specific problems that you may have experienced today,” he said.
As it did last year, the U.S. Geological Survey’s website continued running smoothly Wednesday and provided information about the quake.
The U.S. agency pegged the magnitude at 3.7.