Southeast Alaska was jarred by a significant earthquake early Saturday morning just about midnight. The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.5 and originated off the coast of Central Southeast Alaska about 95 miles Northwest of Dixon Entrance. There were no immediate reports of any significant damage or injuries.
The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning center issued a warning for all coastal areas of Southeast Alaska and called for residents to move to higher ground in several coastal communities. That included Petersburg, where many bleary-eyed residents drove or walked up the hill to the local ballfields, post office and airport. Chris Cook was among them. He had been working the night shift downtown at the Scandia House Hotel when the earthquake hit:
“I haven’t felt an earthquake before so I actually thought it was a wind gust but then I realized that wind would have been louder and doesn’t shake things quite on the inside. I actually didn’t think anything was going to happen when the police….going back and forth saying, you know, a warning for a Tsunami but then at some point it changed to an evacuation notice…..get to the ballfield and I said ‘Well, thatsounds more serious’,” he said.
During the warning in Petersburg, the siren sounded, police issued instructions downtown by loudspeaker and residents were also contacted by phone through an emergency notification system called Code Red. KFSK public radio broadcast updates on the situation until the authorities cancelled the warning and gave the all-clear around two a-m.
The Tsunami Warning Center reported a half-foot rise in the water level at Port Alexander and just a few inches above normal at Sitka, but said it was not enough to pose a threat.
The Alaska Earthquake Information center said the quake originated at a depth of about 3 miles off the western coast of Prince of Wales Island. The epicenter was about 70 miles west of Craig, 110 miles south of Sitka, 120 miles southwest of Petersburg and Wrangell and about 200 miles south of Juneau.