A magnitude-7.1 earthquake has knocked items off shelves and walls in Alaska, jolting the nerves of residents in this earthquake-prone region. But there were no reports of injuries.
Alaska’s state seismologist, Michael West, called it the strongest earthquake in the state’s south-central region in decades.
Alaska often has larger or more powerful earthquakes, such as a 7.9 last year in the remote Aleutian Islands.
“However, last night’s earthquake is significant because it was close enough to Alaska’s population centers,” West said, adding that aftershocks could continue for weeks.
The earthquake was widely felt by Anchorage residents. But the Anchorage and Valdez police departments said they hadn’t received any reports of injuries or significant damage.
The earthquake struck at about 1:30 am Alaska time and was centered 53 miles (85 kilometers) west of Anchor Point in the Kenai Peninsula, which is about 160 miles (257 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage, according to the US Geological Survey. Vincent Nusunginya, 34, of Kenai said he was at his girlfriend’s house when the quake hit.
It started out as a shaking and it seemed very much like a normal earthquake. But then it started to feel like a normal swaying, like a very smooth side-to-side swaying,” said Nusunginya, director of audience at the Peninsula Clarion newspaper. “It was unsettling. Some things got knocked over, but there was no damage.”
Four single family homes in Kenai were lost to explosions or fire in the wake of the earthquake.
Two of the homes were destroyed in explosions and the other two were fully engulfed before firefighters determined it was safe enough from gas for them to enter the homes, Kenai battalion chief Tony Prior said.
“No injuries. Thank God,” he said. “The second one was a major explosion. We’re fortunate that no one was hurt.” About 30 homes were evacuated, and some people took shelter at the Kenai National Guard Armory.
Workers with the gas utility were examining the remaining homes yesterday afternoon with the goal of getting displaced residents back in their homes later in the day.
The USGS initially reported the quake as a magnitude-7.1, but downgraded shortly afterward to magnitude-6.8 before raising it back to 7.1.
The biggest aftershock yesterday was magnitude-4.7, and West said a magnitude-5 or magnitude-6 aftershock is possible.
There were reports of scattered power outages from the Matanuska Electric Association and Chugach Electric in the Anchorage area.
The Homer Electric Association reported on its website that about 4,800 customers were without power early yesterday in the Kenai Peninsula.