After a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Alaska’s Cook Inlet and southern Kenai Peninsula on Friday, Nov. 30, coastal areas of the state are under a tsunami warning.
The earthquake has caused massive damage to infrastructure and communication systems, buckling main roads, breaking windows, and taking at least one news station off the air. According to CNN, items were falling off shelves at affiliate station KTUU during the quake.
“I could tell this was bigger than anything I’d been in before, and it wasn’t going to stop,” Alaskan Philip Peterson told CNN.
Peterson was working in a multistory building in Anchorage when the earthquake hit, knocking ceiling tiles down, and tossing coffee mugs onto the floor.
“I just jumped under my desk and had to ride it out,” he said.
The earthquake was followed by several aftershocks, the largest of which, at a magnitude of 5.7, hit Anchorage, the state’s most populous city. Residents there were told to seek shelter and stay there by the Anchorage Office of Emergency Management.
“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,” The Associated Press reports.
Many schools and businesses in Anchorage closed for the day after the earthquake.
“I’ve been here 11 years and I’ve felt movers before, but that scared me s***less,” Anchorage resident Kevin Bartley told Alaska Public Media. “That’s the quickest I’ve ever seen one come on and the hardest I’ve ever seen it shake.
“The transformers were blowing up … It felt like for a minute we might watch that ground open up.”
According to NPR, no deaths have been reported yet, but damage to major thoroughfares has crippled transportation in the Anchorage area. After the earth opened up and gave way on both sides of a highway off ramp, one vehicle was stranded on a small “island of asphalt.”
“I started to feel my car not driving properly, so I thought I had a flat,” Chris Riekena told NPR. “So I pulled over and then started to see everything swaying and lights flashing and stopped. And then I watched the car in front of us start to sink as the road pushed out to the left.”
The disaster shook buildings and homes for miles around Anchorage, leaving many of them in need of repair. Among those affected, the home of former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s home was badly damaged, though she and her family were not injured.
“[Pray] for Alaska. Our family is intact — house is not…” Palin wrote on Twitter. “I imagine that’s the case for many, many others. So thankful to be safe; praying for our state following the earthquake.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a tsunami alert for US and Canadian Pacific coasts in North America, while Gov. Bill Walker has issued a declaration of disaster and is coordinating with emergency responders.
“From the incident command center established at Joint Base Elmendorf and Richardson we are closely monitoring reports of aftershocks and assessing damage to roads, bridges and buildings,” he wrote.
NOAA has since canceled the tsunami warnings, but damage from the earthquake is still being assessed.
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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.