Strong earthquake hits Southcentral: Here’s what we know

An Anchorage Fire Department crew fights a fire following a magnitude 7 earthquake on Nov. 30, 2018. (Image by Joey Mendolia / Alaska’s Energy Desk)

Update, 6:19 p.m.

The Anchorage School District announced that all Anchorage School District facilities will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, Dec 3-4, as the district continues to assess damage. Only “essential staff” will be reporting to work.

Chugach Electric says 240 of their customers are without power. At one point, they had 21,000. Chugach serves 68,000 people. Most of their damage has been tripped transformers, so the crews had to turn them on and off again before restoring power. So far, spokeswoman Julie Hasquet has not heard of any reports of downed power lines. All crews are out to restore power.

Currnelty there are less than 1,000 Municipal Light and Power customers without power, spokeswoman Julie Harris says. ML&P serves 30,000. They are still assessing damage. Power plants are fine but they are assessing damage to substations and other infrastructure that distributes the power right now. They have one report of a downed power line in Airport Heights but are currently checking out the report.

The Matanuska Electric Association has 12,000 of their 55,000 customers without power. Most of their substations are down due to an emergency mechanism that kicked them off line when the earthquake happened, according to spokesperson Kierre Childers.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is open and operational according to Trudy Wassel, Division Operations Manager. They are still doing an assessment of the damage; no final reports yet. She says there was a water line break but it’s not the major water line. Drinking water and sanitation are both fine. The terminals are safe to passengers.

The Providence Alaska Medical Center Emergency Department remains open for patients after today’s earthquake. There are no reports of injuries at the hospital at this time. However, the hospital suffered isolated damage, such as multiple water leaks. Hospital staff continue to evaluate the extent of this damage. All scheduled elective surgeries have been canceled and will be rescheduled.

Alaska Native Medical Center is reporting no significant damage to the building or intake of people coming in with injuries. They said they treated a handful of patients (8) with very minor earthquake related injuries.

The public information officer for Alaska Regional Hospital says that they have cancelled all elective surgeries and appointments through the weekend, but their ER is open. In the general assessment they’ve done of the building so far, the earthquake only caused minor damage to the building: leaks in a few places, and damage to ceiling tiles. They currently have a structural engineering going through the building to make sure everything is OK.

The following highways have been inspected since the earthquake, have not experienced significant damage, and are passable:

  • Alaska Highway
  • Richardson Highway
  • Parks Highway MP 98, near Talkeetna, to MP 345 in Fairbanks (inspections ongoing south of MP 98)
  • Tok Cutoff
  • Glenn Highway MP 118-189 (inspections ongoing south/west of MP 118)
  • The Parks Highway from MP 0-98 is passable.

Check 511.alaska.gov for updates on all other highways.

The AP reports the operators of the trans-Alaska pipeline said they shut the system down as a precaution following the earthquake. A spokeswoman with the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company says there is no known damage to the pipeline.

– Ravenna Koenig, Wesley Early, Rashah McChesney, Krysti Shallenberger, Elizabeth Jenkins and Anne Hillman contributed to this update. 

Update, 4:45 p.m.

Officials with the Municipality of Anchorage gave an update on municipal infrastructure and emergency response operations during a Friday afternoon press conference. Anchorage Police Department Chief Justin Doll said residents should expect to see an increased police presence across town as the municipality continues to respond to the disaster.

On Friday evening, Doll said, the department is planning to temporarily shut down traffic inbound to Anchorage on the Glenn Highway to allow for increased outbound traffic.

The Egan Center remains open as a warming shelter for people temporarily displaced by the quake, according to the Municipality of Anchorage.

Update, 4 p.m.

Gov. Bill Walker, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and other Alaska officials addressed the government’s earthquake response during a press conference streamed live on Facebook Friday afternoon. Walker said he’s issued a declaration of disaster. He praised first responders, and said his administration has been in contact with the White House and the incoming administration of Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy. Alaskans’ safety is the state government’s highest priority, Walker said. 

Listen the the press conference below:

“It’s been a 7.2 earthquake, our response was a 10,” Walker said.

– Kirsten Swann, Alaska Public Media / Anchorage

Update, 1:20 p.m.

Aftershocks continued to rock Anchorage throughout the morning Friday, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center.

The Municipality of Anchorage has issued an emergency proclamation and activated its Emergency Operation Center, according to APD and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.

The Glenn Highway and Seward Highway were reopened as of 12:45 p.m., according to a statement from the Anchorage Police Department. Detours still exist around damaged areas including the South Eagle River Bridge, the Mirror Lake exit off the Glenn Highway and on Minnesota Boulevard.

In a Friday afternoon statement, APD advised residents to keep extinguishers on hand, check gas lines, shelter in place, keep phone lines open and stay off the roads. The Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility encouraged people in Anchorage and Eagle River to boil water before drinking as a precautionary measure. The utility said it’s closed its office for the day while it responds to water line breaks and other emergencies.

Governor Bill Walker, Lieutenant Governor Valerie Davidson and Major General Laurie Hummel are scheduled to provide an update on the earthquake’s aftermath at 3 p.m.

President Donald Trump addressed the quake in an 11:19 a.m. Tweet:

– Kirsten Swann, Alaska Public Media / Anchorage

Original story:

A powerful 7.0 earthquake hit Southcentral Alaska Friday morning, shaking town and causing widespread damage.

Information is still trickling in, but here is what we know so far.

According to the Alaska Earthquake Center, the quake hit about 10 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska’s most populous city. The event started at about 8:30 a.m., with multiple aftershocks following.

Roads and infrastructure are severely damaged. According to the Department of Transportation’s Shannon McCarthy, rock falls nears McHugh Creek and milepost 112 have closed the south-bound Seward Highway. The northbound Glenn Highway is closed by Eagle River Drive because of damage.

In Anchorage, many traffic lights are out, contributing to traffic standstills along major roadways. The overpass by International and Minnesota Drive has partially collapsed. An intersection at 36th and the New Seward Highway has a sinkhole or split in the road.

By 10 a.m. the tsunami warning issued earlier had been canceled.

The Anchorage School District is telling parents, “When you feel it is safe to pick up your children at your school, please do so.”

The Anchorage Police Department says officers have been dispatched throughout town handling incidents. On its Facebook page, the department wrote, “There is major infrastructure damage across Anchorage. Many homes and buildings are damaged. Many roads and bridges are closed. Stay off the roads if you don’t need to drive. Seek a safe shelter. Check on your surroundings and loved ones.”

As of 10:20 a.m. the Ted Stevens International Airport is open, but passengers are encouraged to get flight information from their airlines. Earlier, the airport had closed and canceled inbound and outbound flights.

Alaska Regional Hospital has canceled elective surgeries but remains open as staff their inspect for damage beyond water leaks.

Chugach Electric is reporting that 21,000 people lost power. As of 10:30 a.m. there are still 15,000 without power.

– Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media / Anchorage 

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the time of Gov. Bill Walker’s afternoon press conference.