An earthquake is the sudden release of stored energy; most earthquakes occur along a fracture within the earth, called a fault.
The shaking caused by this sudden shift is often very small, but occasionally large earthquakes produce very strong ground shaking. It is this strong shaking and its consequences – ground failure, landslides, liquefaction – that damages buildings and structures and upsets the regional economy.
Washington, especially the Puget Sound basin, has a history of frequent earthquakes. More than 1,000 earthquakes occur in the state each year. A dozen or more are strong enough that people feel ground shaking; occasionally, earthquakes cause damage.
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