Earthquake damage Seattle houseboats, sloshes swimming pool

Posted: Monday, November 04, 2002

SEATTLE (AP) -- Houseboats on the east side of Lake Union were torn from their moorings and a swimming pool was evacuated because of turbulence from a major earthquake in Alaska.

Waves generated by the 7.9 magnitude quake 1,400 miles away shook the Center for Wooden Boats off its sewage pipe Sunday afternoon, leaving the maritime heritage museum at the south end of Lake Union in Seattle without a working toilet.

''It was going crazy here,'' said Steve Moe, a houseboat resident. ''For anybody who lives in a houseboat, it was wild.''

The shock waves took four or five minutes to reach Seattle and were imperceptible to all but a handful of area residents, said Stephen D. Malone, a seismologist and geophysics professor at the University of Washington.

''A person that's just standing around is not going to feel that,'' Malone said. ''It's only felt by people in special places.''

The 605-foot Space Needle swayed a bit but the motion was mild, said Jason Lim, manager of the revolving restaurant at the top.

Six- to eight-inch waves sloshed water onto the pool deck at the Pro Sports Club in Bellevue and rattled three swimmers, lifeguard Brandon Hart said. The pool was evacuated for about 20 minutes.

''It was like they were swimming in the ocean,'' Hart said.

At least one Lake Union houseboat lost power and damages ranged into the thousands of dollars, mostly from broken water and sewage lines.

''It was like the whole dock was moving back and forth and moving 5 feet in both directions,'' said Thea Yeahnakis, 16, who had just returned from church with her mother. ''It was really scary and really weird.

''I've never seen anything like that. I was too scared to go down on the dock.''

Jay Gelzer, her eighth-grade son and his friend thought the shaking was caused by a boat wake and ran out to try to catch sight of the culprit. As they re-entered the houseboat, a major support beam broke loose and narrowly missed them.

Gelzer said it would probably cost several thousand dollars to repair the ''stringer'' beam and a broken sewer line.

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