Military officials unveil damage from powerful Alaska quake

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Last week's magnitude 7.0 earthquake near Anchorage caused multiple problems at the sprawling Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, including damage to steel frameworks, ceilings, and sprinkler and heating systems, military officials said Friday. But as with the rest of the earthquake zone, there were no deaths, serious injuries or widespread catastrophic damage. In fact, … Continue reading “Military officials unveil damage from powerful Alaska quake”

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Last week's magnitude 7.0 earthquake near Anchorage caused multiple problems at the sprawling Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, including damage to steel frameworks, ceilings, and sprinkler and heating systems, military officials said Friday.

But as with the rest of the earthquake zone, there were no deaths, serious injuries or widespread catastrophic damage.

In fact, Air Force Lt. Col. Jacob Leck, who is originally from Idaho, expected far worse in his first-ever earthquake, he said Friday during a news briefing on the impact of the Nov. 30 quake that struck 7 miles (11 kilometers) north of Anchorage. Such was the force felt during the quake, which has been followed by thousands of aftershocks.

"I thought for sure that we had significant damage and that it was going to be a catastrophic loss of some facilities," said Leck, commander of the 773D Civil Engineer Squadron and director of the base emergency operations center. "And to this date, we have not found anything of the magnitude that I ever expected."

The base was quickly ready to receive aircraft, with three C-130s landing within an hour after the quake, according to officials.

The base is home to two F-22 Raptor fighter squadrons. None of the more than 40 F-22s on base was damaged in earthquake, JBER spokeswoman Erin Eaton said.

Damages at the base are still being assessed, with a subsurface assessment planned by an airfield pavement evaluation team heading to Alaska from Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, officials said.

Base officials unveiled damage to a swimming pool room in a base fitness building during Friday's briefing. Ceiling panels were still missing, and the floor near the empty pool was littered with debris. The building is among several that remain closed at the base.

The 123-square-mile (319-square kilometer) base, located on Anchorage's north side, is home to about 1,000 buildings, plus another 3,200 housing units. Only one household was displaced, and that was because of a water outage.

None of the seven bridges on base was damaged.

The base has provided emotional support to those who need it, said Col. Michael Staples, commander of the 673D Civil Engineering Group. "The chaplain has been very busy," he said.

The main earthquake damaged structures over a wide swath of the temblor's impact zone area in Anchorage and beyond, disrupting power and cracking roads.

As of early Friday afternoon, there had been more than 3,100 aftershocks, including 15 with a magnitude of 4.5 and above, said seismologist Natalia Ruppert with the Alaska Earthquake Center.

Anchorage police warned Friday that rockfalls were still occurring along a 6-mile stretch of the cliff-lined Seward Highway.

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This story has been corrected to say that Tyndall Air Force Base is in Florida.

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Follow Rachel D'Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro

More than 1,000 aftershocks rattle Alaska region where magnitude 7.0 quake struck

More than 1,000 aftershocks were felt around Alaska in the days after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the region Friday.

There have been about 1,400 aftershocks — including 17 that registered 4.0 or higher and five that registered greater than 5.0 — near the epicenter of Friday’s quake, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Scientists warned of more jolts expected over the next few days.

“You can expect earthquakes in magnitude 5 or 4 to continue for the next couple of weeks, and as time goes on it tapers off,” Rafael Abreu, a U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist, told the Anchorage Daily News.

The large earthquake affected many roads around the Anchorage area. The Glenn Highway, one of Alaska’s roadways that links Anchorage to northern communities, was among the roads damaged. However, there were no deaths or injuries reported due to the quake.

This aerial photo shows damage on Vine Road, south of Wasilla, Alaska, after earthquakes Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP)

State workers in Anchorage were given the day off to help quell any possible traffic issues. Employees who live north of the city were also encouraged to take Monday off or work from home. Gov. Bill Walker said he would remain in Anchorage to help with recovery efforts instead of traveling to Noorvik for Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy’s swearing-in ceremony.

Schools were also set to remain closed for the week to allow officials to inspect any possible damage to the buildings, Superintendent Deena Bishop said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ryan Gaydos is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @RyanGaydos.

Hundreds of aftershocks shake Alaskans following big quake

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Chris Riekena was driving his 7-year-old son to school when his car started acting up. As he pulled over, he realized the problem wasn't his car — it was a huge earthquake.

Riekena turned around to calm his son in the back seat and when he looked forward again, the road ahead of him was sinking into the earth. He pulled his son out of the car as light poles along the road swayed.

By the time the shaking stopped Friday, the car just in front of his on the freeway was marooned on an island of asphalt with a huge chasm on both sides.

"It was probably a good 30 to 40 seconds of slow-motion disaster," said Riekena, an engineer with the Alaska Department of Transportation who later returned to the site for his job.

"Thankfully I pulled over when I did," he said. "I've walked around the site enough over the last few hours that I've replayed that a few times."

Back-to-back earthquakes measuring 7.0 and 5.7 cracked highways and rocked buildings Friday in Anchorage and the surrounding area, sending people running into the streets and briefly triggering a tsunami warning for islands and coastal areas south of the city.

No tsunami arrived, and there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

Aftershocks Saturday continued to fray nerves. U.S. Geological Survey Geophysicist Paul Caruso said there have been 545 aftershocks, including the 5.7 magnitude shaker that came almost immediately after Friday's big quake. Eleven have had magnitudes of 4.5 or greater.

The aftershocks should be weaker and less frequent in the coming days, but officials can't say for sure when they'll stop, Caruso said.

The USGS said the first and more powerful quake was centered about 7 miles (12 kilometers) north of Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, with a population of about 300,000. People ran from their offices or took cover under desks. The 5.7 aftershock arrived within minutes, followed by a series of smaller quakes.

"We just hung onto each other. You couldn't even stand," said Sheila Bailey, who was working at a high school cafeteria in Palmer, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) from Anchorage, when the quake struck. "It sounded and felt like the school was breaking apart."

Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll said he had been told that parts of Glenn Highway, a scenic route that runs northeast out of the city past farms, mountains and glaciers, had "completely disappeared."

The quake broke store windows, knocked items off shelves, opened cracks in a two-story building downtown, disrupted electrical service and disabled traffic lights, snarling traffic.

Flights at the airport were suspended for hours after the quake knocked out telephones and forced the evacuation of the control tower. And the 800-mile (1,287-kilometer) Alaska oil pipeline was shut down for hours while crews were sent to inspect it for damage.

Anchorage's school system canceled classes and asked parents to pick up their children while it examined buildings for gas leaks or other damage.

Jonathan Lettow was waiting with his 5-year-old daughter and other children for a school bus near their home in Wasilla, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Anchorage, when the quake struck. The children got on the ground in a circle while Lettow tried to keep them calm and watched for falling trees.

"It's one of those things where in your head, you think, 'OK, it's going to stop,' and you say that to yourself so many times in your head that finally you think, 'OK, maybe this isn't going to stop,'" he said.

Soon after the shaking ended, the school bus pulled up and the children boarded, but the driver stopped at a bridge and refused to go across because of deep cracks in the road, he said.

Gov. Bill Walker issued a disaster declaration. And President Donald Trump late Friday declared an emergency, which allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

In Kenai, southwest of Anchorage, Brandon Slaton was soaking in his bathtub when the earthquake struck. The temblor created a powerful back-and-forth sloshing that threw him out of the tub, he said.

His 120-pound (55-kilogram) mastiff panicked and tried to run down the stairs, but the house was swaying so much that the dog was thrown into a wall and tumbled down the stairs, Slaton said.

Slaton ran into his son's room after the shaking stopped. The boy's fish was on the floor, gasping, its tank shattered. Slaton put the fish in a bowl.

"It was anarchy," he said. "There's no pictures left on the walls, there's no power, there's no fish tank left. Everything that's not tied down is broke."

Alaska was the site of the nation's most powerful earthquake ever recorded. The 9.2-magnitude quake on March 27, 1964, was centered about 75 miles (120 kilometers) east of Anchorage. It and the tsunami it triggered claimed about 130 lives.

The state averages 40,000 earthquakes a year, with more large quakes than the 49 other states combined. Southern Alaska has a high risk of earthquakes because the Earth's plates slide past each other under the region, but it is rare for a quake this big to strike so close to such a heavily populated area.

David Harper was getting coffee at a store when the low rumble began and intensified into something that sounded "like the building was just going to fall apart." He ran for the exit with other patrons.

"People who were outside were actively hugging each other," he said. "You could tell that it was a bad one."

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Associated Press writers Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; Mark Thiessen in Anchorage; Gillian Flaccus in Portland, Oregon; Gene Johnson in Seattle; Jennifer Kelleher in Honolulu; Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

The Latest: Bridge inspectors converge on Anchorage, Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The Latest on Alaska earthquake (all times local):

9:55 a.m.

The Alaska Department of Transportation has all of its inspectors in the Anchorage area Saturday to conduct bridge inspections following the 7.0 earthquake that caused highway damage mostly north of the city.

Officials say there are 40 sites in the area with some type of damage, and eight of those are considered major.

The major damage is mostly to highways or ramps getting on or off the Glenn Highway north of Anchorage. There's also damage at the interchange of the Glenn and Parks highways.

Rock falls exacerbated by hundreds of aftershocks are causing some problems on the Seward Highway south of Anchorage.

Officials say in a release that the aftershocks continue to contribute to settling and additional cracking.

Department spokesman Meadow Bailey tells The Associated Press that normal operations have resumed at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

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8:20 a.m.

Strong aftershocks from Alaska's magnitude 7.0 earthquake continued Saturday around Anchorage, jolting people awake and pummeling already frayed nerves.

The U.S. Geological Survey says there have been 545 aftershocks, including a 5.7 magnitude shaker that followed Friday's big quake almost immediately.

Geophysicist Paul Caruso says 11 aftershocks have had magnitudes of 4.5 or greater. He says there should be fewer and weaker aftershocks in the coming days, but officials can't say for sure when they will stop.

Friday's quake was centered about 7 miles (12 kilometers) north of Anchorage. There have been no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

President Donald Trump late Friday declared an emergency for the earthquake, which allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts.

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12 a.m.

Two strong earthquakes measuring 7.0 and 5.7 ripped apart highways, cracked buildings and rattled people's nerves around Anchorage.

The quakes on Friday broke store windows, opened cracks in a two-story building downtown, disrupted electrical service and disabled traffic lights, snarling traffic.

There were no reports of any deaths or serious injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the first and more powerful quake was centered about 7 miles (12 kilometers) north of Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, with a population of about 300,000.

People ran from their offices and into the streets or took cover under desks as the ground shook for about 30 seconds.

Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll says parts of Glenn Highway, a scenic route that runs northeast of the city, had "completely disappeared."

Life is slowly settling down in Alaska after major quake

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Life is slowly settling down in Alaska following a powerful earthquake that rattled buildings, disrupted power and caused heavy damage to the only highway that goes north of Anchorage.

Still, hundreds of aftershocks frayed nerves Saturday as people worried about being caught in more massive shakers.

"They're disturbing, and I'm not putting anything away that could fall until they calm down," Randall Cavanaugh, an Anchorage attorney, said following a restless night at home. "I kept waking up."

Employees who live in communities north of Anchorage have been encouraged to see if they can take Monday off or work from home to reduce the number of cars on Glenn Highway as crews repair damage.

Motorists trying to travel north on Friday were at a virtual standstill on the highway.

Gov. Bill Walker, who leaves office Monday, has given state office workers in the Anchorage area the day off to ease traffic congestion.

"Even though we are making very significant progress on the highway travel, it would still behoove all of us to see if we can keep the volumes down," Municipal Manager Bill Falsey said at a news conference.

The magnitude 7.0 quake didn't cause widespread damage to structures or collapse buildings. There's a good reason for that.

A devastating 1964 Alaska earthquake — the most powerful on record in the United States — led to stricter building codes that helped structures withstand the shifting earth Friday.

A seismic expert said Alaska and California use the most stringent standards to help buildings withstand earthquakes.

Sterling Strait, a member of the Alaska Seismic Hazards Safety Commission, said the states use the International Building Code, considered the best available standard for seismic safety.

It requires buildings to be designed to resist possible ground motion determined by location and earthquake histories.

It also mandates structural connections —beams and columns — be reinforced to resist damage from shaking, said Strait, seismic program coordinator for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., operator of the 800-mile (1,287-kilometer) Alaska oil pipeline.

Walker said sometimes people, including himself, grouse about stringent building codes. But he's glad they were in place as he only had minor water damage at his home.

"Building codes mean something," he said.

The quake was centered about 7 miles (12 kilometers) north of Anchorage, which has a population of about 300,000. People ran from their offices or took cover under desks. A 5.7 aftershock followed within minutes. Then came a series of smaller quakes.

There were about 550 aftershocks, including 11 with magnitudes of 4.5 or greater, in the 24 hours following the Friday temblor.

The aftershocks should be weaker and less frequent in the coming days, but officials couldn't say for sure when they'll stop.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said the extent of damage was "relatively small" considering the scale of Friday's earthquake. He also credited building codes for minimizing structure damage.

Roads took the brunt of the damage. The Alaska Department of Transportation counted about 50 sites with damage, including eight considered major. Most of the damage was done to highways north of Anchorage. The agency also was planning to conduct bridge inspections.

Earthquake damage also was preventing Alaska Railroad trains from making the trek between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The trip is 350 miles (563 kilometers) each way.

Alaska surveys damage from major earthquakes

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Two strong earthquakes measuring 7.0 and 5.7 ripped apart highways, cracked buildings and rattled people's nerves around Anchorage.

The quakes on Friday broke store windows, opened cracks in a two-story building downtown, disrupted electrical service and disabled traffic lights, snarling traffic.

There were no reports of any deaths or serious injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the first and more powerful quake was centered about 7 miles (12 kilometers) north of Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, with a population of about 300,000.

People ran from their offices and into the streets or took cover under desks as the ground shook for about 30 seconds.

Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll says parts of Glenn Highway, a scenic route that runs northeast of the city, had "completely disappeared."

Alaska earthquake claimed no lives, officials say, but infrastructure damage is another story

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocked the state of Alaska on Friday morning, churning up roads and sending office workers running to the streets in scenes locals described as pure "anarchy."

The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake was centered about five miles north of Anchorage, Alaska's largest city.

Republican Rep. Donald Young said at a press conference Friday evening that an initial assessment found that the earthquake was not deadly. “We’re quite pleased to report that there’s been no deaths at this time that we know of,” he said.

But if the news, from a casualty standpoint, was good, infrastructure was another story. Republican Sen.Lisa Murkowski said there was major concern regarding recovery efforts and safety.

“The impact is very real, the impact is very hard, and it will require apparently a great deal of recovery and effort,”’ she said. “There are homes without power. There is some concern that you may have gas line breaks that could lead to potential further disasters.”

GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan added that the state has already seen major aftershocks, “some above 5.0” magnitude.

“Make no mistake, this was a big one,” he said, citing a serious concern regarding transportation impact. “Right now the highways in and out of Anchorage, with the exception of one going up north, are cut off and that’s a big problem for us.”

Sullivan did add that despite the damage to roads and bridges, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator told state officials that there were “no reports of any major building collapse.”

This photo provided by David Harper shows merchandise that fell off the shelves during an earthquake at a store in Anchorage, Alaska, on Friday. (AP)

In one update on Friday afternoon, AP said Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll was recounting reports that parts of a scenic highway that heads from Anchorage toward mountains and glaciers have sunken and "completely disappeared.".

He said officials were evaluating the damage to the Glenn Highway, but some was viewed as so significant that it will probably "take a long time to repair."

Doll also said damage to bridges has been reported.

An AP reporter working in downtown Anchorage saw cracks in a two-story building after the quake.

People went back inside buildings after the earthquake, but a smaller aftershock a short time later sent them running back into the streets again.

Slaton was alone and home and soaking in the bathtub when the Alaska earthquake struck.

He said the quake created a powerful back-and-forth sloshing in the bathtub and before he knew it, he'd been thrown out of the tub by the force of the waves.

His 120-pound mastiff panicked and tried to run down the stairs, but the house was swaying so much she was thrown off her feet and into a wall and tumbled to the base of the stairs, Slaton added.

A lawyer who spoke to the Associated Press called it the most "violent" earthquake he's experience in his 20 years in Anchorage.

Hank Graper says he was driving when the quake struck. He first thought his vehicle had a flat tire, then thought it was exploding. He realized it was an earthquake after he saw traffic poles swaying.

The federal Disaster Relief Fund, which has about $30 billion, should have sufficient resources for the state's immediate post-quake needs, Fox News has been told. But it will take a while to determine the scope of the damage and how much assistance may be needed later.

Murkowski, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, told Fox the main roadways leading to and from the airport are damaged badly and cannot be repaired until spring. Most goods come into Alaska via Anchorage.

Alaska averages 40,000 earthquakes per year, with more large quakes than the other 49 states combined.

Southern Alaska has a high risk of earthquakes due to tectonic plates sliding past each other under the region. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Pacific plate is sliding northwestward and plunges beneath the North American plate in southern Alaska, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands.

On March 27, 1964, Alaska was hit by a magnitude 9.2 earthquake, the strongest recorded in U.S. history, centered about 75 miles east of Anchorage. The quake, which lasted about 4½ minutes, and the tsunami it triggered claimed about 130 lives.

As of Friday night, commercial flights in and out of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport had resumed, according to Murkowski. She also noted that the state’s gas pipeline had been shut down as a “precautionary” measure.

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Paulina Dedaj is a writer/ reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @PaulinaDedaj.