Alaska hit by more than 230 earthquakes since Friday


In this photo provided by Jonathan M. Lettow, people walk along Vine Road after an ...
In this photo provided by Jonathan M. Lettow, people walk along Vine Road after an earthquake, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, in Wasilla, Alaska.

In Summary

  • Despite damage to roads and buildings, no fatalities or serious injuries were reported, officials said.
  • In Alaska's largest city -- with a population of about 300,000 -- airports, hospitals, emergency services and most businesses were operating.
  • Most of the smaller earthquakes since Friday's big one were not felt. More than a dozen were higher than magnitude 4 and a handful greater than magnitude 5, Falsey said.

More than 230 small earthquakes have hit parts of Alaska since Friday, when a 7.0-magnitude quake knocked out power, ripped open roads and splintered buildings near Anchorage, the US Geological Survey said.

Still, local officials said life was returning to normal even as four to eight inches of snow were expected on Sunday.

“This is the second largest earthquake we’ve had since 1964, which was a very significant earthquake,” Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz told reporters Saturday, referring a historic magnitude-9.2 quake that was the most powerful recorded temblor in US history.

“But in terms of a disaster, I think it says more about who we are than what we suffered. I would characterize this as a demonstration that Anchorage is prepared for these kind of emergencies.”

Berkowitz said during a Saturday night press conference the city was returning to normal.

“We know that we have to be prepared because we’re never impervious to earthquakes or the weather,” he said.

Despite damage to roads and buildings, no fatalities or serious injuries were reported, officials said. In Alaska’s largest city — with a population of about 300,000 — airports, hospitals, emergency services and most businesses were operating.

“The bottom line on the utility structure is that the power is up, the heat is on, the communication lines are opening,” said Anchorage Municipal Manager Bill Falsey. He added Saturday that the state’s department of transportation mobilized four teams of bridge inspectors who remained in a 24-hour operation center until the earthquake situation was resolved.

“At this point, though, we’re not seeing a significant amount of bridge damage,” Falsey said.

Most of the smaller earthquakes since Friday’s big one were not felt. More than a dozen were higher than magnitude 4 and a handful greater than magnitude 5, Falsey said.

But a magnitude-5.2 aftershock about 11 p.m. Friday was the second-biggest event since a magnitude-5.7 temblor hit minutes after the main quake, according to Gavin Hayes, a research geophysicist with the USGS.

“That would have given people a shake and probably a bit of a scare given what they went through yesterday,” he told CNN on Saturday.

The magnitude-7.0 earthquake sent residents scurrying for cover when it hit about 8:30 a.m. Friday local time. The quake was centered 10 miles northeast of Anchorage, the state’s largest city.

“The most striking thing about this event was that it was so close to Anchorage,” Hayes said. “That’s why it has caused the damage that we’re seeing. Had it been a little further away from Anchorage I don’t think it would be getting very much attention. It’s not an unusual earthquake in the perspective of the tectonics of the region.”

‘This was a big one’

Roads buckled under passing cars and grocery store products tumbled from shelves. In court, panicked attorneys scurried under tables as a room rocked from side to side.

“It was very loud when it came,” Berkowitz said Friday. “It was very clear that this was something bigger than what we normally experience. We live in earthquake country … but this was a big one.”

Palmer resident Kristin Dossett described the initial jolt as “absolutely terrifying.”

It was the biggest quake she has felt in her 37 years in a region where temblors are common, Dossett said. One aftershock moved her piano a foot and half from the wall.

“It shook like I have never felt anything shake before,” she said.

“It just didn’t stop. It kept going and got louder and louder, and things just fell everywhere — everything off my dressers, off my bookcases, my kitchen cupboard. Just broken glass everywhere.”

Authorities don’t have firm figures on damage yet. Helicopters and drones were assessing infrastructure across the region. Jodie Hettrick, Chief of the Anchorage Fire Department, said Saturday there were no significant earthquake-related injuries, but some municipal employees had minor injuries after diving under desks or having things fall on them.

Hettrick also said the fire and police departments haven’t received any reports of missing people.

The Anchorage School District canceled classes Monday and Tuesday to assess facility damage. Deena Bishop, Anchorage School District superintendent, said the district was able to evacuate children and reunite them with their families safely.

“Students did a great job with their training and earthquake preparation,” she said. “Students know to drop, get under something and hold on. That is their desks.”

Bishop added that of the 48,000 students and 6,000 adults in the school system, only two injuries were reported. One was a custodial employee who had injuries related to broken glass and one student had a possible broken wrist.

Seismologists predict more aftershocks

Gov. Bill Walker has issued a disaster declaration.

Philip Peterson was in a multistory building in downtown Anchorage as the structure swayed and coffee mugs fell from tables and tiles from the ceiling.

“I just jumped under my desk and had to ride it out,” Peterson said.

The 7.0 earthquake was felt up to 400 miles outside of Anchorage, said Michael West, the Alaska state seismologist.

He called it the most significant earthquake in Anchorage since 1964.

“I think it’s safe to say that, not measured in magnitude or location but in terms of how strong the ground itself shook during the earthquake,” he said during a question-and-answer session at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Two of the city’s main hospitals — Alaska Regional and Providence Alaska Medical Center — sustained damage but emergency rooms were open, according to hospital officials.

The Anchorage Police Department reported “major infrastructure damage” across the city.

Blair Braverman said she was staying in a hotel with her husband when the quake hit. She grew up in California and was familiar with earthquakes “but this was next-level,” she said.

“My husband sort of crawled across the room and threw himself on top of me and we crawled to the bathroom together and waited it out in the doorway and waited out the aftershocks.”

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