Wednesday's earthquake a reminder of airport's relief role

"It’s ironic that Bremerton National Airport operations manager Fred Salisbury was surprised to hear an earthquake rattled part of the Kitsap Peninsula Wednesday .Granted, it was a tiny one with a 2.2 magnitude. But its epicenter was identified in the airport’s vicinity, southeast of Port Orchard and about five miles south of Bremerton.“My wife had to tell me that there was an earthquake,” Salisbury conceded with a chuckle.The quake hit at 3:30 a.m. No damage was reported at the airport, or anywhere else.Bill Steele of the University of Washington seismology lab said damage doesn’t typically occur unless a quake hits between 4 and 5 on the Richter scale. The last one to do that in the Bremerton area occurred June 23, 1997, and measured 4.8.Steele suggested the largest earthquake predicted to jolt the Puget Sound area would be a 7.5. That would be considered the “big one,” he said.And there’d be no sleeping through something like that. Salisbury, among other port staff members, would need to verify whether the airport was operational after such a hit.Because if the “big one” ever does shake up Kitsap County, Bremerton National could serve as a key relief point and supply drop. The airport “is the only main, useable runway on the peninsula,” Salisbury said. “It can accommodate serious planes such as a (Air Force) C-130 that would carry supplies.”In the event that a monstrous quake erupts, Salisbury said he and airport personnel would immediately check the airport’s facilities for any faults.“If the runway is totally unuseable because there’s a huge crack in the middle of it, then I would contact the Federal Aviation Administration for relief,” he said.In the meantime, Salisbury said, helicopters could make drops of food, water, medical supplies or anything else that’s needed.The airport isn’t the only savior-in-waiting, however. National Guardsmen could travel by truck north on State Route 3, if necessary, Salisbury said."

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