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JIM LEHRER: The day after the big earthquake, we begin with a report from Jack Hamann of KCTS-Seattle.
JACK HAMMON: Seattle was calm today, if slightly on edge. Minor aftershocks followed Wednesday’s 6.8-magnitude earthquake, the region’s largest tremor in 51 years.
The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Joe Albaugh, spent the day surveying what could amount to more than a billion dollars in damage throughout western Washington state. Two of the region’s airports were seriously damaged. At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the control tower was completely disabled. A back-up tower is now in place, handling only half the normal takeoffs and landings at an airport that normally serves 70,000 travelers a day.
The earthquake was centered just north of the state capital, Olympia. Every building housing state agencies has been shut down for inspection or repair. The 74-year-old capital dome has a deep crack in its limestone exterior. Despite the fact that some walls fell, roofs collapsed and cars were crushed, there have been no reported fatalities; 270 people were admitted to area hospitals, less than a dozen are still in serious condition. A few roads were damaged, and several bridges are impassable. Mud slides triggered flooding, sending one residence into the raging Cedar River.
Property damage varied widely. Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square District was hit the hardest. The neighborhood was built in the early 1900′s on fill dirt. The soil shook like gelatin when the earthquake hit. Just south of Pioneer Square, city inspectors say the world headquarters for Starbucks Coffee may be unsafe for several days or even weeks. And as a precaution, the Boeing Aircraft Company closed many of its plants and offices pending detailed inspections.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And joining us from Seattle is Washington Governor Gary Locke. Thanks for being with us, Governor.
GOV. GARY LOCKE: My pleasure.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Can you update for us the current status of the injured?
GOV. GARY LOCKE: Well, we’re so fortunate, so lucky and so relieved that no one died as a result of the earthquake. We have over 200 people who have been injured — only a handful seriously, and so we’re just so relieved that the injuries appear to be fairly minor. Of course we have a lot of clean-up, we have a lot of property damage, and we have to survey our roads and bridges, and that’s painstaking work, but that’s all proceeding.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I know reports are still coming in to you, but can you give us any figure for the amount of damage? And also, tell us what you’ve learned about, for example, your dams.
GOV. GARY LOCKE: Well, first of all, the damage assessments are coming in, but we believe, based on various modeling, looking at the size, the magnitude, the location, the epicenter of the earthquake and the particular fault involved, that the damage, both economic loss to businesses, individuals, homeowners, as well as the cost of repair, whether to public buildings and private facilities will exceed a billion dollars. But we won’t have the final figures until later on. We immediately commenced a review of all of our essential facilities, from roads and bridges to our dams to our prisons, mental hospitals. And we had some concern yesterday about Grand Cooley Dam, which is a very huge dam, one of the world’s largest and also a source of major power in the Pacific Northwest. There had been some monitors that basically shot off the scale, and that was of concern to us. And they have sent a team of people in to look at it. And the reports now are that it was reacting, the monitors were reacting to the earthquake, but no structural damage, as far as anyone can tell, Grand Cooley Dam is absolutely safe. But as a further precaution, we’re going to continue to monitor it and have even more detailed inspections.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Governor Locke, where were you when it happened, and where was your family?
GOV. GARY LOCKE: Oh, I’m sure that will be the subject of storytelling for ages to come for everybody who was here in the Pacific Northwest when the earthquake struck. I was actually in my office, in a meeting with people, getting ready in fact soon to depart to Seattle for with a major address at the Space Needle. That would have been quite an event to be up on top of the space needle 600 feet high and swaying back and forth. But I was in a meeting, and heard a loud bang and then heard a vibration in the floor, thought it was perhaps construction in the basement of the legislative building, which has the capitol dome and everything. And then it intensified, so I knew it was really an earthquake. I’ve been through an earthquake before when I was in school as a child. That was about 30 years ago. And then it intensified. I instructed everybody to take cover underneath the tables and desks. And then it became a sliding motion, and then things started falling off bookshelves and display cases and off the walls. My family, my wife and our two kids both will be… are March babies and so one will be two in March and one will be four in March. They were at the governor’s mansion a few hundred yards away. They were supposed to have been on their way to another city nearby, but instead, they were still in the mansion, and they luckily, very fortunately, avoided serious injury when a large TV set that’s built into a cabinet, only a foot and a half high, toppled over and actually flipped over itself and came crashing down just a few feet away from our two-year-old baby.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And you’ve suspended the legislature, right? The capitol’s not safe for them?
GOV. GARY LOCKE: The capitol is not safe right now, as we under go an examination of both the office buildings where the House and Senate members have their offices and have their hearings. The legislative building itself, which has the House and Senate chambers, as well as the offices of various statewide officials, is severely damaged. And until we get a green light, until we know exactly what needs to be done to stabilize it, nobody is going into that legislative building, the House and Senate Chambers Building. The office buildings, however, we hope to have them able to be occupied perhaps as early as Monday, and we’re working with the legislative leaders on perhaps them taking their votes, the House and the Senate actually voting on legislation out of their office, their hearing room building.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Governor, Washington state’s put a lot of money into retro fitting, updating buildings. From what you can see, did it work? And did it pay off? And what hasn’t worked? What of your preparations can you see didn’t pay off?
GOV. GARY LOCKE: Well, I clearly think that things did pay off. Whether… I think we have learned and have been reminded that we can never be complacent. We’ve had a series of minor earthquakes in the last 30, 40 years. We’ve also had the catastrophic earthquakes in California. That has really prompted us in the state of Washington and local governments and state governments to impose very tough building standards with respect to new construction, as well as tough building standards on major renovation of older buildings. We’ve also been engaged in a public campaign funded with federal dollars to educate citizens on what they can do to make their homes less susceptible to damage in case of an earthquake. Now, we can never prevent earthquakes. That’s up to Mother Nature. They’re completely unpredictable, so we really have to do our best to make sure our buildings are as safe and secure as possible and that citizens know what to do in the event of an earthquake. We had several hundred kids in the capitol building yesterday at the time of the earthquake — a lot of employees in the building. They all knew what to do. They ducked for cover, they hid under a desk and tables or under archways, doorways, and then they proceeded out very quickly in single file in a calm, orderly fashion, outside as soon as the tremblers stopped. But there’s more we can do — such things as having emergency kits at home, extra supply of water, having evacuation plans and such things as strapping down your hot water tank to the wall so that they won’t tip over and where you then have loose wiring and have water spewing all over the house and scalding water from your hot water tanks in the case of an earthquake.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Lots of things that could have happened didn’t happen. It could have been much worse, as people have said, there was no tidal wave, that sort of thing. Do you consider this sort of a wake-up call? And if so, what sort of preparations do you want to put in place for even a worse earthquake, if, heaven forbid, one should happen?
GOV. GARY LOCKE: Well, obviously, this is a very sobering wake-up call. I think people are sighing a big sigh of relief that nobody was critically hurt or even killed. But it serves as a reminder that there are still more things we can do in terms of shoring up our bridges and our highways to make sure that they are… can sustain even a mild earthquake; actually after the California earthquakes of the last several years, we have been undergoing an effort to strengthen up our freeways, our bridges, but we can still do more. And we need to also look at how we communicate with each other. A lot of cell phones… I mean they were all busy, even land lines were down. We’ve got to figure out a way in which we can communicate to the public which roads are passable, what they can do or what they should not do in the immediate moments after an earthquake. And that’s where we really depend on media, both radio and television, to communicate to the citizens what they should do and how they can help out. But I’m so pleased and so proud that our citizens throughout western Washington were very calm, helped each other out, were very patient when traffic lights went out and roads were made impassable. People kept their cool and worked with each other.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Governor Locke, good luck in the days ahead, and thanks for being with us.
GOV. GARY LOCKE: Thank you very much.