Yukon government workers moved from earthquake-damaged offices

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Yukon gov't keeps staff out of Lynn Building, cites safety concerns

Yukon gov't keeps staff out of Lynn Building, cites safety concerns

About 70 Yukon government workers have been displaced from their regular offices, after Whitehorse's Lynn building was damaged by a couple of earthquakes and aftershocks that shook the territory Monday morning.

Several buildings were damaged by the quakes, but only two were still closed Tuesday — the Lynn building and the Ross River School. Both buildings will be inspected by structural engineers before re-opening.

There were no reported injuries from the earthquakes.

"I'm guessing that structural engineers might be a little bit busy," said Stanley Noel on Tuesday. He represents the consortium of four First Nations development corporations that own the Lynn building. "We're hoping to have a report from them by the end of today or tomorrow."

The Yukon government rents the building to house its department of community services.

Noel calls it "a solid building" that appears to have suffered only superficial damage. Cracks were visible in the cinder block exterior on Monday.

"When you've got a large building in a downtown core, and it's showing any signs of concern on the outside, I think it's important that we do what we're doing — which is err on the side of caution, work with our tenants to make sure that they find alternate arrangements, and get that assessment done to make sure that there's no issue," Noel said.

The Ross River School, meanwhile, will be given a technical inspection later this week, according to Yukon government spokesperson Aisha Montgomery.

"[The] Yukon government is discussing options with the principal and the community, if the school needs to remain closed beyond [Tuesday]," she said.

Meantime, geologists and highways officials were also busy Monday doing aerial inspections of areas prone to avalanches and landslides. No roads were closed on Monday.

'We were pretty lucky'

Carolyn Relf, of the Yukon Geological Society (YGS), said based on initial reports, the territory came through remarkably well. 

"Certainly [magnitude] 6.2 could do some damage. I think we were pretty lucky — there was only minor reports anywhere, either here or in southeast Alaska, of damage," she said.

"We're at the front edge of a tectonic plate here in western North America, and we're moving westward and southward relative to the ocean plate. So when the two move past each other, they catch on each other and pressure builds up — and that's what manifests as an earthquake."

Maurice Colpron, also with the YGS, said Monday's quakes were nothing unusual for the area, just a little stronger than normal.

"There are earthquakes almost daily, but most of them are so little that they're not of concern, really," Colpron said.

"The reality is that anything that's below a magnitude 4, even if you're at the epicentre, it's likely that you may not feel it, or you feel very little."

Always be prepared, officials say

Monday's quakes prompted emergency officials to urge Yukoners to be prepared in case a bigger one eventually hits.

Whitehorse Fire Chief Kevin Lyslo said it's important to have some supplies on hand, and a plan. 

"How are you going to survive until emergency crews comes check on you? In the Yukon, I would say that we're fairly prepared, naturally — although I would say it's beginning to change slightly," Lyslo said.

Fire Marshall James Patterson says people should always have enough emergency supplies — food, water, fuel — on hand to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.

"It doesn't take a whole lot to prepare for three days," he said.

Yukoners should receive a preparedness guidebook in the mail next week, which is Emergency Preparedness Week in the territory.

Patterson says emergency officials are working "continuously" on their own plans and training to deal with a major emergency.

He says the big focus right now is getting ready for forest fire season in Yukon. A major forest fire could pose a serious risk to the city of Whitehorse.

"We have very few routes into our community, and out of our community," he said. 

"If it does happen, we can count on our arteries of transportation being completely congested, and possibly inoperable."