Earthquake early warning system gets $10.4 million to expand in Pacific Northwest

SEATTLE – An earthquake early warning system is primed for major expansion across the Pacific Northwest after the United States Geological Survey awarded the system $10.4 million.

ShakeAlert is a collaboration between numerous universities, including UW,  which created a phone app that alerts people when an earthquake is happening.

Theoretically, ShakeAlert would give people valuable time to find shelter before a damaging shockwave reaches them. The system is still in development and was criticized for failing to activate during a series of powerful earthquakes that rattled California this summer.

While damaging to the city of Ridgecrest, researchers say they miscalculated the threshold for sending out an alert to the Los Angeles-area. With an epicenter over 150 miles away, researchers believed the quake was too weak to cause significant damage.

The quake, in fact, didn't cause any damage to the city, but it still stoked fear in millions of residents who were unsure of what was happening.

ShakeAlert seismologists say they’ve addressed the issue.

A magnitude 4.6 quake struck Western Washington in June, but the system wasn’t ready in time to be tested. There are plans to make the app public as early as next year.

The funding from the USGS allows 104 new seismic stations in Washington and another 44 in Oregon.