Back-to-back earthquakes measuring 7.0 and 5.8 rocked buildings and shattered roads Friday morning, November 30, 2018 in Anchorage, Alaska, sending people running into the streets and briefly triggering a warning to residents in Kodiak to flee to higher ground for fear of a tsunami.
The warning was lifted a short time later. There were no immediate reports of any deaths or serious injuries.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the first and more powerful quake was centred about 12 kilometres north of Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, with a population of about 300,000. People ran from their offices or took cover under desks.
Cracks could be seen in a two-story downtown Anchorage building, and photographs posted to social media showed fractured roads and collapsed ceiling tiles at an Anchorage high school. 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 after the first earthquake struck, but the 5.8 aftershock about five minutes later sent them running back into the streets.
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.”
The National Weather Service Seattle tweeted a tsunami warning is in effect for Cook Inlet, but it is not expected to affect Washington or B.C.
Anchorage lawyer Hank Graper was driving when the quake struck. He first thought his vehicle had a flat tire, then thought it was exploding. He realized it was an earthquake after he saw traffic poles swaying.
Graper called it the most violent earthquake he’s experience in his 20 years in Anchorage.
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.
“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.”
Thrown from bathtub
In Kenai, north of Anchorage, Brandon Slaton was alone at home and soaking in the bathtub when the earthquake struck. Slaton, who weighs 209 pounds, said it created a powerful back-and-forth sloshing in the bath, and before he knew it, he was thrown out of the tub by the waves.
His 55-kilogram 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.
“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 said.
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’s school was evacuated.
Alaska averages 40,000 earthquakes per year, with more large quakes than the other 49 states combined. Southern Alaska has a high risk of earthquakes due to tectonic plates sliding past each other under the region.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Pacific plate is sliding northwestward and plunges beneath the North American plate in southern Alaska, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands.
On March 27, 1964, Alaska was hit by a magnitude 9.2 earthquake, the strongest recorded in U.S. history, centred about 120 kilometres east of Anchorage. The quake and the tsunami it triggered claimed about 130 lives.