Back-to-back earthquakes shatter roads and windows in Alaska
Anchorage, Alaska – Back-to-back earthquakes measuring 7.0 and 5.8 rocked buildings and buckled roads Friday morning in Anchorage, prompting people to run from their offices or take cover under desks and triggering a warning to residents in Kodiak to flee to higher ground for fear of a tsunami.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the first and more powerful quake was centered about 7 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city.
Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll says he is unaware of reports of deaths or serious injuries following the earthquake that rocked the state’s largest city.
Doll made the statement to reporters Tuesday. The quake was so large, it was felt 350 miles away in Fairbanks.
Cracks could be seen in a two-story downtown Anchorage building. It was unclear whether there were injuries.
Photographs posted to social media sites showed damage that included collapsed ceiling tiles at an Anchorage high school and buckled roads. One image showed a car stranded on an island of pavement, surrounded by cavernous cracks where the earthquake split the road.
Cereal boxes and packages of batteries littered the floor of a grocery store, and picture frames and mirrors were knocked from living room walls.
People went back inside buildings after the first earthquake struck, but the 5.8 aftershock about five minutes later sent them running back into the streets.
Shortly after the quake, a tsunami warning was issued for the southern Alaska coastal areas of Cook’s Inlet and part of the Kenai peninsula. Kodiak police on Kodiak Island warned people in the city of 6,100 to “evacuate to higher ground immediately” because of “wave estimated 10 minutes.”
The Federal Aviation Administration says operations have stopped at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport following the earthquake that rocked buildings and damaged roads.
FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer in Washington state said Friday it’s not known when inbound flights will resume and that travelers should check with their airlines.
Kenitzer and Alaska transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey say telephone service is out at the airport.
The FAA spokesman says the airport tower was evacuated and flights that could be diverted were being sent to Kodiak.
He says inbound international flights to Anchorage were being guided by controllers at a regional radar approach facility.
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker tweeted that he has issued a disaster declaration.
The Alaska Railroad has suspended all operations amid “severe” damage at their Anchorage Operations Center and unknown track conditions throughout the state.
External Affairs Manager Tim Sullivan says the operations center lost power and is experiencing flooding following the quake.
He says: “It’s tough to run trains when you have no dispatch.”
Sullivan says no reports of track damage have yet been reported, but it will take a day or two for staff to fully assess conditions. Until the tracks are cleared for use, all railroad operations will are suspended, Sullivan said.
The operators of the 800-mile long trans-Alaska pipeline also said they shut the system down as a precaution following the earthquake in southcentral Alaska.
Michelle Egan is a spokeswoman with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.
She says there is no known damage to the pipeline.
She says data will be assessed at an operations center and a physical inspection of the line will be performed.
She says pipeline can be restarted before the physical assessment is complete.
The Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage says it has canceled elective surgeries and that the hospital experienced multiple water leaks.
The hospital says in a statement that there was not a large influx of patients after the quake. There were no reports of serious injuries or deaths and there were no reports of injuries at the hospital.
Alaska averages 40,000 earthquakes per year, with more large quakes than the 49 other states combined. Southern Alaska has a high risk of earthquakes because of tectonic plates sliding past each other under the region.
David Harper was getting some coffee at a store when the low rumble began and intensified into something that sounded “like the building was just going to fall apart.” Harper ran to the exit with other patrons there.
“The main thought that was going through my head as I was trying to get out the door was, ‘I want this to stop,’” he said. Harper said the quake was “significant enough that the people who were outside were actively hugging each other. You could tell that it was a bad one.”
On March 27, 1964, Alaska was hit by a magnitude 9.2 earthquake, the strongest recorded in U.S. history, centered about 75 miles east of Anchorage. The quake, which lasted about 4½ minutes, and the tsunami it triggered claimed about 130 lives.
Police in Alaska’s Kodiak island community have told residents to head to higher ground amid the tsunami threat. Kodiak is an island about 200 miles south of Anchorage.
The U.S. Geological Survey said it was a 7.0-magnitude quake and tsunami warnings were issued for southern Alaska coastal areas.
Brandon Slaton was alone and home and soaking in the bathtub when the Alaska earthquake struck.
Slaton just moved to Kenai, Alaska with his wife from Arizona and had never felt an earthquake before the 7.0 magnitude temblor hit on Tuesday morning.
Slaton says the quake created a powerful bath-and-forth sloshing in the bathtub and before he knew it, he’d been thrown out of the tub by the force of the waves.
His 120-pound mastiff panicked and tried to run down the stairs, but the house was swaying back and forth so much that she was thrown off her feet and into a wall and tumbled to the base of the stairs.
Slaton says: “It was anarchy. There’s no pictures left on the walls, there’s no power, there’s no fish tank left. Everything that’s not tied down is broke.”
Slaton ran into his son’s room after the shaking stopped and found his fish tank shattered and the fish on the closet floor, gasping for breath.
He grabbed the Betta fish and put it in another bowl.
He says the area was eerily quiet. His children, 11 and 16, were evacuated from school.