7.8-magnitude earthquake in Alaska prompts brief tsunami warning

In Kodiak, a high school was established as an emergency shelter as warnings urged people to move inland and seek higher ground.

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By Phil Helsel and Kurt Chirbas

A powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake off the coast of the Alaska Peninsula in the southwestern part of the state on Tuesday night triggered tsunami warnings that were later canceled.

The quake occurred at occurred around 10:13 p.m. around 75 miles south of the community of Chignik, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center. It had a depth of 8 miles.

Tsunami warnings were issued for a stretch of Alaska from around 40 miles southwest of Homer to Unimak Pass, 80 miles northeast of Unalaska, according to the warning center. Parts of the Aleutian Islands were also under a tsunami warning.

By around 12:20 a.m., all tsunami warnings had been canceled. A tsunami did occur but no longer posed a threat, authorities said, and people were urged not to re-occupy hazard zones until given the all-clear by local officials.

The height of the tsunami was 0.8 feet, which was observed at Sand Point, around 100 miles southwest of Chignik, the tsunami center said.

In Kodiak, a high school was established as an emergency shelter as warnings urged people to move inland and seek higher ground. Video from outside the school showed people gathering there.

Kodiak City Manager Mike Tvenge said that an evacuation order for the city had been issued and residents were told to go to the high school. Kodiak is a coastal city of around 6,000 on the northeastern part of Kodiak Island, around 250 miles southwest of Anchorage.

"We are all clear and back in our homes. And we are grateful," Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson said.

U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Robert Sanders said in a phone interview shortly after the quake occurred that there had been around 100 reports of it being felt on the Alaska Peninsula, and that the strongest shocks were recorded in Perryville some 60 miles away from the epicenter.

He said strong earthquakes are fairly common in the area and there have been a number of temblors of magnitude 7 or greater.