Vernon’s Gordon Horner is a physician in Haida Gwaii. He was on-call at the Queen Charlotte Hospital Saturday when an earthquake hit.

Vernon’s Gordon Horner is a physician in Haida Gwaii. He was on-call at the Queen Charlotte Hospital Saturday when an earthquake hit.

Earthquake rattles VSS grad

Even during an interview Monday morning with a reporter from his hometown, Gordon Horner couldn’t escape that rumbling feeling.

Even during an interview Monday morning with a reporter from his hometown, Gordon Horner couldn’t escape that rumbling feeling.

“Earthquake!” said Horner, 49, a physician in the Village of Queen Charlotte on Haida Gwaii, which has been dealing with a magnitude 7.7 earthquake and numerous aftershocks since the quake hit Saturday at 8:04 p.m. “Oh, just a little one.”

Since Saturday, Horner estimates at least 60 aftershocks have hit Haida Gwaii and that he has felt “at least a half-dozen of them.”

“One was a pretty good size, about noon on Sunday,” he said.

“I was working doing some paperwork at the (medical) clinic. I was the only one in the building and it rattled pretty good for about 15-to-20 seconds.

“It was enough to get me out of my chair going, ‘OK, time to move.’”

Horner, a Vernon Secondary School graduate whose father, Bill, still lives in Vernon, was on-call at Queen Charlotte Island General Hospital Saturday, doing more paperwork and chatting with the nurses who had started night shift when a large rumbling sound began.

Realizing it was more than just a passing large truck, Horner headed outside away from the structure and held on to a railing beside a sidewalk.

In the middle of the road in front of the hospital was a deer with the “deer-in-the-headlight” look.

“The doe was looking like I was, ‘What the hell do I do now?’” chuckled Horner. “We gave each other a deer stare.”

Patient capacity at the hospital is 16, and Horner said there were no acute sick people admitted, and only a couple of long-term care patients. Nobody was evacuated.

Hospital administration showed up soon after, as did the other doctors in the village to check in. The power went out shortly after the earthquake and, with a tsunami advisory issued to get to higher ground, Horner said there was enough light to see the water levels and watch for rising water.

“There was not a ripple,” he said. “Nothing.”

Despite the magnitude of the quake, it was surprising how little damage was done.

The 57-year-old hospital, scheduled soon for demolition to make room for a new facility, was unscathed.

At Horner’s house, one of his pictures hanging on a wall was crooked.

“Some houses fared worse than others, depending on the luck of the draw,” he said.

“Other people had lots of anything that was hanging or on shelves shaken down, and there was lots of crashed pottery and dishes.”

Rumours were circulating, said Horner, that the paint cans in the town’s hardware store came down from the shelves, leaving a multicoloured lake of paint on the floor.

Since moving to Haida Gwaii in 2001, Horner has previously experienced an earthquake. One hit in 2004 or 2005, he recalled, during a local music festival.

That one, he said, was more unsettling.

“You get a queasy feeling in the stomach when the world is moving around you,” said Horner. “It makes you nauseated. That one seemed more topsy-turvy, more rolling. This one (Saturday) was more of an aggressive, shaking feeling.”

That, combined with the aftershocks, he said, has left the residents “pretty anxious, with everyone jumpy and not sleeping or resting well.”

But he expects those sensations, like the aftershocks, will fade. And they will not keep him from leaving Haida Gwaii.

“It’s not a game changer,” said Horner of the earthquake.

“In a lot of ways, it reinforces the things I love about the community here. It’s a beautiful place, legendary for its beauty, the Haida people and the culture.

“People really have their differences but when the chips are down really have each others’ backs. That’s a feeling that would be tough to relinquish.”