The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Bill Johnson for Alaska House

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Earthquake and tsunami warning rattled nerves just after midnight Tuesday

Kodiak-based shaker downgraded to magnitude 7.9 after initially registering 8.2

 

January 24, 2018

Graphic from Tsunami Warning Center Palmer

Preliminary magnitude 8 from Tuesday's earthquake was later downgraded to a 7.9, with minimal wave activity.

Many slept right through it, while others ran for cover after a long-lasting earthquake rattled shelves and nerves just after midnight early Tuesday morning.

The earthquake was centered in the Gulf of Alaska, approximately 175 miles southeast of Kodiak City. Initial results showed the shaker to register a magnitude of 8 earthquake. It was upgraded to an 8.2 magnitude, only to be downgraded to magnitude 7.9 Tuesday morning. A tsunami warning was issued shortly after the earthquake, for most of the west coast and Hawaii.

Emergency responders in Valdez jumped into action immediately – with police issuing a tsunami advisory through its emergency notification system via Nixle – which automatically emails and/or texts subscribers.

This warning was sent out at 1:21 a.m.

Advisory: Tsunami warning in effect for Valdez. Estimated arrival time at 2:15am. Unknown height of tsunami (if any).

It was quickly followed with a second advisory at 1:59 a.m. stating:

Advisory: At this time Valdez High School, Valdez Airport, and Fire Station 4 at Alpine Woods are open for those who would like to evacuate.

The Alpine Woods fire station quickly filled with concerned residents, while others opted to wait out the possibility of a tsunami on Thompson Pass.

The Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer was operational despite the federal shutdown that had shuttered other government services through Monday.

While the Warning Center issued a tsunami warning, the tsunami alarm system in Valdez was not activated to warn residents to evacuate due because city emergency responders were not advised it would be needed due to the fact the wave generated was expected to be minimal.

The evacuation sites were opened as a precaution.

Alaska emergency officials noted the wave generated on the Alaska coastline was not expected to exceed one foot in height.

Red Cross of Alaska – which has an active Valdez chapter – was on high alert after the shaker.

"Our disaster staff and volunteers monitored the situation closely, should we have been called upon to assist residents across the state," the Red Cross said in an email statement early Tuesday morning, advising Alaskans to be prepared for future emergencies.

Earthquakes:

- Remember: Drop, cover and hold. If you are inside when the shaking starts, drop, cover and hold onto something sturdy.

- Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit.

- Download the Red Cross Earthquake app to learn more and get information about building an emergency kit. The free Emergency App is available in app stores for smartphones and tablets by searching for the American Red Cross

Tsunamis:

Graphic from Tsunami Warning Center

USGS issued a tsunami prediction warning for the west coast, and included expected timelines for communities from Alaska down to California and the Pacific Islands.

- Find out if your home, school, workplace or other frequently visited locations are in tsunami hazard areas.

- If you are in a coastal area and feel an earthquake that lasts 20 seconds or longer:

Drop, cover and hold on. You should first protect yourself from the earthquake.

- When the shaking stops, gather members of your household and move quickly to higher ground away from the coast. A tsunami may be coming within minutes.

- What do I do after a tsunami? Continue using a NOAA Weather Radio or tuning to a Coast Guard station or a local radio or television station for the latest updates.

 

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