Quarry blast rocks North Bay
Incident spurs conflicting messages from emergency services
A seismologist with Natural Resources Canada has confirmed there was no earthquake in the North Bay area Wednesday morning.
Stephen Halchuk said it’s not unusual for a quarry blast to be mistaken for an earthquake, which is exactly what happened at about 9 a.m.
“It wasn’t an earthquake. Rather the quarry blast that occurred registered on the Richter scale,” he said.
“Our instruments record vibrations as they travel through the earth. They can’t tell what the cause of the shaking is.”
Halchuk said most earthquakes occur 10 to 20 kilometres below the Earth’s surface, “but we do get shallower earthquakes that are recorded on seismometers that are manmade. That is where the confusion is.”
He said Natural Resources said it received reports from area residents of shaking.
“Without knowing the local details, it was assumed it was an earthquake,” Halchuk said.
“To most people they wouldn’t know the difference between a quarry blast and a small earthquake. There are a few seconds of shaking followed by a loud boom or rumble.”
Jolanta Kowalski, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, said the ministry, as well as the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, are following up the incident.
Environment and Climate Change is leading the investigation of the blast, which resulted in conflicting information from local emergency services, as well as public confusion.
The first media release came in at 10:40 a.m. from North Bay Fire Chief Jason Whiteley
“This morning a blast shook all parts of the city and was felt as far away as Astorville. City departments and the customer service centre were inundated with inquiries. Fire crews confirmed that Miller Paving at their Birch’s Road quarry executed a controlled blast to produce aggregate for their upcoming highway project,” he stated.
Whiteley went on to say that “City of North Bay departments were unaware that the blasting was to take place today, therefore we could not make the public aware.”
However, at 3 pm Tuesday North Bay police used Twitter to advise the public of a pending blast.
“Please be advised, there is a scheduled controlled blast at the quarry at the end of Birch’s Road in North Bay, at about 6 pm tonight. Just in case anyone in the south end of the city hears anything concerning.”
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, North Bay police posted the Twitter message: “NBPS has received confirmation from Natural Resources Canada that a small earthquake measuring 2.2 on the scale occurred at 9:05 am this morning centred approximately 3 kms south of North Bay. Lots of calls but no reports of damage or injuries.”
That was followed by a media release at 11:24 a.m. indicating the police service received several calls from concerned citizens regarding possible blasting in the area.
“North Bay police confirmed with Natural Resources Canada that at approximately 9:05 am the North Bay area had a minor earthquake measuring 2.2 on the scale. It was centred just south of the city.”
By 2 p.m., after The Nugget confirmed an earthquake did not occur, Whiteley shortly after followed with a second media release.
“Natural Resources Canada reported earlier today that the North Bay area experienced an earthquake. I have followed up with a seismologist from NRC and, based on information and evidence, they have acknowledged that the vibrations detected from their equipment would have been from the blasting at the quarry.”
Residents reported that their entire house shook, their floors swayed for a few seconds and their windows rattled and blinds were banging against windows.
Another resident said he will be looking for cracks in his drywall because the shaking was so intense.
A quarry blast Wednesday morning at the end of Birch's Road is seen from the top of Laurentian Ski Hill.