Alaska Earthquake May Have Been Most Powerful in 60 Years, Prompting Tsunami Warnings

by Shelby Scott

Residents occupying the city of Kodiak on Kodiak Island, Alaska evacuated to higher ground early this morning. The major city and surrounding area experienced an 8.2 earthquake, the strongest in decades.

According to Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson, this most recent quake was perhaps the most powerful to strike the area in 60 years if the measurement holds. According to USA Today, it was the third time residents have had to evacuate the area in 18 months.

When the earthquake initially took place, it triggered both strong aftershocks and tsunami warnings that were since canceled. Areas cleared of the tsunami warnings include western states California, Oregon, and Washington as well as Hawaii. Warnings for British Columbia and Alaska were also canceled.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center is still currently looking into potential threats to both Guam and American Samoa. The warnings were canceled earlier today after waves of less-than-one-foot waves were recorded in the area. The center did add, however, that people should expect “strong and unusual currents,” despite the tsunami warning cancelations.

The Extent of the Damage from the Latest Earthquake Should be Known Later Today.

State officials such as Jeremy Zidek were unsure of the extent of damage at the time due to the intensity of the latest earthquake. Zidek is a spokesman for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Patrick Mayer, superintendent of schools for Aleutians East Borough, told The Anchorage Daily News that he was sitting in his kitchen when the shaking started. The aftershocks that followed the initial quake measured at preliminary magnitudes of 6.2 and 5.6 respectively. USA Today shared that both the aftershocks occurred within 30 minutes of the initial earthquake.

The Tsunami Warning Center encouraged residents to report any damage to local officials. Mayer said the earthquake began and just didn’t stop. “The pantry is empty all over the floor,” he said, “the fridge is empty all over the floor.” Thankfully for him, it seemed to be the extent of his damage. He evacuated to the local school located on higher ground following.

Why Does Alaska Experience So Much Trembling?

Unfortunately for Alaskan residents, this won’t be the end of their earthquake experiences. The state itself is located in what we’ll call an earthquake hotspot. According to USA Today, Alaska sits on the “seismically active” Pacific Ring of Fire.

Unfortunately for us, this isn’t in reference to Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” though that also has an interesting story behind it. Alas, another time.

The Pacific Ring of Fire, as stated in the aforementioned article, is a “horseshoe-shaped geological disaster zone and hotbed for tectonic and volcanic activity.” A simple Google search will tell you that the Ring of Fire stretches the length of 24,900 miles. Disaster zone indeed.

The state experiences disastrous earthquakes due to Alaska’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire. The last strongest earthquake to strike Alaska was in the 1960s, that one measuring on the seismic scale at an 8.7. The strongest earthquake to ever reach North America occurred in 1964, in Alaska as well. It measured a 9.2 on the seismic scale. That particular earthquake led to 131 deaths and over $2.3 billion in property loss.