Western Alaska villages barely affected by 7.1 quake

A magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck in Cook Inlet early Sunday morning, the largest ever recorded in Cook Inlet. (Photo by United Geological Survey)
A magnitude-7.1 earthquake struck in Cook Inlet early Sunday morning, the largest ever recorded in Cook Inlet. (Photo by United Geological Survey)

A magnitude-7.1 earthquake that caused gas leaks and power outages across Southcentral Alaska early Sunday was barely felt in villages closest to its epicenter east of Lake Iliamna in Cook Inlet.

Karla Jensen was asleep in her second story bedroom in Pedro Bay, about 30 miles west of the epicenter, when her cat jumped into the bed and woke her up, seeming agitated. About five minutes later, the house started shaking.

“The house creaked, and then it started shaking, and then it started swaying,” she said. “But there was absolutely no damage at our house, none of the houses, none of the buildings, or any structures in Pedro Bay had any damage at all.”

In Kokhanok, 53 miles west of the epicenter, Harry Ricci said he felt his house shake just slightly, but thought most probably people slept right through it.

“I was up at 1:30 watching TV, sitting in my recliner chair,” Ricci said. “I felt the chair rock a little bit, lamp next to me moved a little bit back and forth, and the ceiling light wiggled a little bit, and it all went on for 30-45 seconds.”

In Iliamna, Clint Anelon also reported experiencing what seemed like a minor quake.

“It woke me up,” Anelon said. “At first I thought it was our washer that was making all the noise, and on further investigation it was my gun safe rattling.”

And at the south end of the lake, in Igiugig, David Alvarez said he was still awake when the quake hit.

“I heard the pans moving, got up, looked at the hanging pans, and the hanging glass balls that we have in our house,” Alvarez said. “They were swaying, and I just guessed it was awake.”

Neither Ricci, Anelon, or Alvarez had heard any reports of damage around the Iliamna Lake area by Sunday afternoon. Furth south, residents in Naknek and South Naknek reported they did not feel the quake.

The impacts were much more severe on the east side of the quake’s epicenter on the Kenai Peninsula, where a road cracked and broken gas lines caused house fires. Items on store shelves tumbled to the ground throughout the Southcentral region, including in Anchorage.

Research technician Dara Merz at the Alaska Earthquake Center said the easterly skew of the damage mostly has to do with where the bulk of the population is located.

 “Most of the communities over on the west side of Cook Inlet are quite small and very spread out, but there’s quite a lot of people that live on the Kenai Peninsula, so there’s more people and more buildings and infrastructure to be damaged in an earthquake.”

On the Kenai Peninsula, four homes were destroyed, and concerns over gas leaks prompted officials to evacuate some residents to a temporary shelter in Kenai. No injuries were reported as of Sunday afternoon.

UAF’s Alaska Earthquake Center reported more than 30 aftershocks, the biggest a magnitude-4.7, in the hours after the 7.1 quake. The National Tsunami Warning Center reported no tsunami danger.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory released a statement that said the earthquake was not directly related to volcanic activity, despite occurring between two volcanoes.