The 2009 Les Cheneaux earthquake was a fictional earthquake exercise that aimed to drive planning and recovery plans in the event of a major earthquake in the Les Cheneaux Seismic Zone, and particularly the Ste. Marie metropolitan area. The exercise began in January 2009 after a Mw 5.4 quake struck northern Michigan on July 21, 2008. The study was hosted by the University of Michigan Department of Disaster Science and Management, led by Amr S. Elnashai, and funded by FEMA.
The exercise has achieved significant progress in creating disaster response plans and better preparedness for earthquakes in Michigan. No major earthquakes have occurred since the 2008 Alanson quake.
1989 was the first year that stipulations were placed on new construction projects to build to a certain earthquake code. It was not until 1996 that retrofits were required for buildings that did not meet this code; once instated, inspectors typically did not enforce these codes, especially during Blagojevich's terms as mayor. By the time of the 2008 earthquake, Ste. Marie was ill-prepared for anything more severe than a minor quake. Similar levels of damage were experienced in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area, with a Mw level 1.5 higher than the 2008 quake.
This raised great concerns. The chaos and disorder that erupted in Ste. Marie following the quake called for a major overhaul in building policy and the need for a comprehensive disaster response plan was in dire need. A team hosted by the University of Michigan Department of Disaster Science and Management was formed in late 2008, and work began on the 2009 exercise in January.
In order to raise the most awareness possible, a worst-case scenario was envisioned. The scenario proposed for the 2009 Les Cheneaux earthquake was an Mw 8.2 shock lasting 1 minute, 15 seconds, preceded by 3 foreshocks and followed by 25 aftershocks. The epicenter would be located directly in the city of Ste. Marie at 1250 Menneville Avenue in Central City. Such a quake has a 6% probability of occurring in the next 50 years.
Impact and damage Edit
The earthquake would have the potential to cause $300 billion in damage across the Ste. Marie area given the weak state of the city's infrastructure and little preparations for a major seismic event. In particular, transportation would be crippled. The Mackinac Toll Bridge would likely collapse in at least 3 places, cutting off transportation to the Upper Peninsula. The Huron Freeway bridge carrying Interstate 75 from Paquet Street to the head of the Mackinac Bridge would also collapse in numerous locations, as it did in 2008. These bridges would remain out of service for at least one month. Given the state of the marinas before the 2008 earthquake, boat traffic connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron would be shut down for several weeks. The Ste. Marie International Airport terminal would likely be damaged beyond normal use, but the majority of the airport's runways would be able to support limited air traffic. Due to possible building collapses in Downtown and debris clogging streets, car travel in the city would be very difficult.
Most tall buildings in downtown that support the city's business community would be able to withstand the quake, but the team predicted that a few buildings were not properly reinforced and would collapse. Such an event would potentially lead companies to leave the city and take many high-paying jobs. As of 2008, many hospitals, including all Trinity medical centers, did not have a response to plan to an earthquake. Many patients died in the wake of the 2008 earthquake, and an even stronger one would only worsen the death toll. Electricity would likely be out for a week or more in some neighborhoods, making medical treatment difficult.
Ste. Marie has for years been infamous for poorly constructed vital infrastructure, and as a result of a quake of this magnitude, running water would be out of service for several weeks, along with electricity. Gas lines would rupture, causing major fires in older neighborhoods. Once repaired, these services would likely be sketchy, with blackouts and frequent water system failures before permanent repairs could be made. Similar effects have been felt in the years following the 2008 earthquake.
The team determined that city government would fall apart in the event of a major earthquake. Fire departments would be unable to control blazes inundating the city. The police department's 2008 manpower would not be able to handle the 700,000 homeless residents roaming the city. Looting would likely be an issue among all social classes. The team dared to make such a prediction judging the victims' response to the 2008 earthquake. Violence would erupt between the rich and the poor of the city, all fighting over basic sustenance. The State of Michigan, and the federal government would take control of the area and mobilize thousands of troops to control the collapse of civilization.
Response from outside agencies would likely come within 24 hours or as soon as possible; and once in Ste. Marie, residents would be transported to safer locations within the southern portion of the state, particularly Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, and cities outside of Michigan. The city itself would not have enough shelters to support its homeless population and provide for them for an extended period of time.
Under the state of the city of Ste. Marie, as observed in June 2008, the city would be unable to function for an extended period of time.