via New York Times
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A powerful earthquake early Saturday set off a tsunami warning for hundreds of miles of Alaskan and Canadian coastline, but the alert was canceled after no damaging waves were generated.
James Poulson/Daily Sitka Sentinel, via Associated Press
The magnitude-7.5 quake and the tsunami warning caused concern in some coastal communities, with people rushing to higher ground as alarms sounded.
But the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center later said the waves were too small to pose a threat, at just six inches above normal sea level in places like Sitka and Port Alexander.
“Initially, in the first 15 to 20 minutes, there might have been a bit of panic,” Chief Sheldon Schmitt of the Sitka Police Department said. Residents calmed down, he said, as the town waited for the all clear.
The temblor struck around midnight local time and was centered about 60 miles west of Craig, the United States Geological Survey said.
Jana Pursley, a seismologist with the agency, said the quake was followed by six aftershocks, the strongest of which registered at magnitude 5.1 and came nearly four hours later.
“Houses shook,” said Chief Robert Ely of the Craig Police Department. “Mine had things tossed from the wall.”
But, he added, there were “no reports of any injuries, no wave, no tidal movement seen.”
The initial tsunami warning had been expanded to include coastal areas from Cape Fairweather, Alaska, to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, Canada — an area extending more than 700 miles.
The warning center had said that “significant widespread inundation of land is expected,” adding that dangerous coastal flooding was possible.
In its cancellation statement, the center said some areas were seeing just small changes in sea level.
“A tsunami was generated during this event but no longer poses a threat,” the center said.
The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said that the quake had been widely felt, but that there were no reports of any damage.
“It was the most intense earthquake I’ve felt in my 10 years here — I’m pretty sure there was stuff falling off of shelves,” Chief Schmitt said. “There is no report of any wave activity here.”
Chief Schmitt said evacuation sirens and announcements in Sitka came shortly after the quake, prompting the temporary rush by residents to higher ground.
Some people in Craig also moved to safer territory.
“Several citizens elected on their own to move to higher ground,” Chief Ely said. Several sites had been set up for staging and shelter, he said, although no evacuation was ordered.
In addition to the warning, a tsunami advisory was briefly in effect for some coastal areas north and south of the warning zone, including a stretch from the Washington State border to the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
A tsunami warning means that an area is likely to be hit by a wave, while an advisory means that there may be strong currents but that widespread inundation is not expected.