JUNEAU, Alaska – A reported 7.5 magnitude earthquake off the Alaska Peninsula on Monday prompted tsunami warnings for a vast swath of communities, leading some schools to evacuate and send students to higher ground.
Raynelle Gardner, a secretary at Sand Point School in the Aleutians East Borough School District, said things are hectic because “this is an evacuation point.”
Some schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were evacuating to higher ground, the district said on Twitter.
Public safety officials in King Cove sent out an alert urging residents in the coastal area to move inland to higher ground.
The tsunami warning was issued by the National Tsunami Warning Center, following an earthquake off Sand Point, Alaska.
The size of the quake was originally reported to have been a magnitude of 7.4, but has been revised to a 7.5, said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He said an earthquake of this size, in this area, is not a surprise.
“This is an area where the Pacific Plate is subducting underneath the North American Plate. And because of that, the Pacific Plate actually goes underneath the North American Plate, where it melts,” Caruso said, noting that’s why there are volcanoes in the region. “And so we commonly have large, magnitude 7 earthquakes in that area.”
The quake struck in the North Pacific Ocean just before 1 p.m. It was centered about 67 miles (118 kilometers) southeast of Sand Point. The community is about 800 miles (1,288 km) southwest of Anchorage. The quake was recorded at a depth of 19 miles (30 kilometers).
The National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said the tsunami warning was in effect for roughly 950 miles (1,529 kilometers), from 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Homer to Unimak Pass, about 80 miles (129 km) northeast of Unalaska.
Unalaska officials sent out a message saying the city is just outside the warning zone and they aren’t ordering evacuations right now. Unalaska public safety officials earlier Monday had sent out a release saying they would be conducting tests of the community’s tsunami warning sirens.
The center said the quake was widely felt in communities along the southern coast, including Sand Point, Chignik, Unalaska and the Kenai Peninsula. The Alaska Earthquake Center said a magnitude 5.2 aftershock was reported 11 minutes later, centered roughly in the same area.
“It was a pretty good shaker here,” said David Adams, co-manager of Marine View Bed and Breakfast in Sand Point. “We’re doing OK.” He said all guests were accounted for and “the structure itself is sound.”
“You could see the water kind of shaking and shimmering during the quake,” he said. “Our truck was swaying big time.” He didn’t take any photos or video: “It just kind of happened of all of a sudden.”
Rita Tungul, front desk assistant at the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Unalaska, said she felt some shaking but it wasn’t strong. Her coworker didn’t feel the quake at all, she said.
Connie Newton, owner of the Bearfoot Inn, a grocery store, liquor store and small hotel in Cold Bay, said the temblor it felt like someone drove into her building with a truck. Still, nothing fell to the ground and she suffered no damage because she earthquake-proofed her stores by installing 2-inch (5-cm) risers around the outside of her selves.
Associated Press journalists Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Audrey McAvoy and Caleb Jones in Honolulu and Mark Thiessen in Anchorage contributed to this report.
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