Powerful quake shakes Alaska towns, creates small tsunami

Earthquake tracker shows 7.8M earthquake off the coast of Alaska
Earthquake tracker shows 7.8M earthquake off the coast of Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A powerful earthquake off Alaska’s southern coast shook sparsely populated coastal communities late Tuesday and prompted some residents to briefly flee to higher ground because of tsunami fears.

There were no immediate reports of damage in the Alaska Peninsula and the tsunami warning was canceled after the magnitude 7.8 quake offshore created a wave of a less than a foot (30 centimeters).

The earthquake struck Tuesday at 10:12 p.m. local time and was centered in waters 65 miles (105 kilometers) south-southeast of the tiny community of Perryville, at a depth of 17 miles (28 km), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Residents in some small towns within a hundred miles (160 kilometers) of the quake reported very strong shaking and some shaking was felt more than more than 500 miles (805 kilometers) away in the Anchorage area, said Michael West, Alaska state seismologist.

The tsunami warning prompted coastal residents to evacuate to higher ground, with social media posts showing long lines of people fleeing towns like Homer and Kodiak as tsunami sirens wailed.

On Kodiak Island about 200 miles (320 kilometers) northeast of where the earthquake was centered, the local high school and the Catholic church opened their doors for evacuees and the school parking lot was declared a safe zone, with some people staying in their cars with pets until it was safe to go home.

“No reports of any damage,” said Kodiak police Sgt. Mike Sorter. “No injuries were reported. Everything is nominal.”

Such tsunami warnings are commonplace in Alaska coastal communities, similar to tornado warnings elsewhere in the U.S. that prompt people to take shelter.