Strong earthquake hits Seattle area

A magnitude 7.0 earthquake rolled through the Pacific Northwest Wednesday at 1:55 p.m. EST.

The Associated Press reported that 12 people were treated at Seattle’s Haborview Medical Center, three for serious injuries. There were no other immediate reports of injuries.

The quake struck close to the Redmond, Wash., home of Microsoft Corp., but damage was minimal, said a public relations agency spokeswoman for the software giant. There was some window and tile damage at the company’s Sammamish campus, she said.

Microsoft has asked employees there to work from home until damage to the facility is evaluated. The company reported no other damage and said operations continue.

At The Boeing Co. data centre, the quake was followed by a puff of black smoke as diesel generators kicked in.

“We immediately found a doorway, watched the tile floor move in a little series of waves, saw our reflections waver in the glass of the windows across the courtyard and watched as the teams of people emptied into the parking lots,” reported Computerworld West Coast Bureau Chief Pimm Fox. Fox was with Christopher J. Kent, vice president of computing and network operations for Boeing’s shared service group, and Carl J. Jones, director of desktop, messaging, Web technology and product development, when the quake hit.

Cell phones stopped working and power was cut to most buildings while data center operations were assessed.

Kent was calm and relaxed as he waited for confirmation that the data centre was not compromised. Boeing has an estimated 150 terabytes of data stored throughout the company, in the Seattle area and in St. Louis.

Kent noted that his staff of 3,400 at Boeing and an additional 1,000 at IBM Global Service Center in southern California is well trained and well versed in emergency procedures.

Boeing sent most people home as a result of the earthquake. Local damage in the area around Boeing headquarters appeared to be from falling bricks and debris.

Bill Gates, Microsoft’s chairman and chief software architect, was speaking to a conference of educators at the Westin Hotel in Seattle when the earthquake hit. As it struck, he left the stage.

The quake also caused power outages in the region.

“In the immediate aftermath, we had about 17,000 people out,” said Dan Williams, a spokesman for Seattle City Light, the local power utility. “We’ve restored two of the nine feeders that were out, but there are still 12,000 to 13,000 people without power,” he said.

Williams said he didn’t expect the remaining equipment to be serviced until this evening.