ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The largest earthquake in the United States in the last half century produced a lot of shaking but spared Alaska any major damage in a sparsely populated region, officials said Thursday.
The magnitude 8.2 earthquake was reported about 10:15 p.m. Wednesday and struck just south of the Alaska Peninsula, nearly 500 miles southwest of Anchorage. The quake was about 29 miles below the surface of the North Pacific Ocean, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Alaska Earthquake Center said on its website that it was the largest quake in the U.S. since a magnitude 8.7 quake in the Aleutians in 1965. A year before that, the magnitude 9.2 Good Friday earthquake devastated parts of Anchorage and other Alaska communities. That quake and ensuing tsunami killed 131 people from Alaska to California.
The late Wednesday quake produced a lot of shaking but officials said no major damage was reported after sunrise Thursday.
"We were fortunate, very fortunate," said Jordan Keeler, the city administrator in Sand Point, a community of about 1,300 people located about 65 miles southwest of the quake's epicenter.
City crews went out at first light Thursday and performed assessments.
"Everything appears to be in working order," he said. This followed reports of no major damage from the city's police chief and harbormaster.
A tsunami warning for Alaska was canceled early Thursday when the biggest wave, of just over a half foot, was recorded in Old Harbor. A tsunami watch that also had been issued for Hawaii was canceled, and officials said there was no threat to Guam, American Samoa or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.
The tsunami warning for Alaska covered nearly a 1,000-mile stretch from Prince William Sound to Samalga Island, Alaska, near the end of the Aleutian Islands.
In the Kenai Peninsula community of Homer, a steady stream of cars was seen evacuating the Homer Spit, a jut of land extending nearly 5 miles into Kachemak Bay that is a draw for tourists and fishermen.
In King Cove, up to 400 people took shelter in the school gym.
"We're used to this. This is pretty normal for this area to get these kind of quakes, and when the tsunami sirens go off, it's just something we do," school principal Paul Barker told the Anchorage Daily News. "It's not something you ever get used to, but it's part of the job living here and being part of the community."
There have been numerous reports of minor damage, such as glasses or plates being broken in the temblor.
Patrick Mayer, superintendent of schools for the Aleutians East Borough, was sitting in his kitchen in the community of Sand Point when the shaking started.
"It started to go and just didn't stop," Mayer told the Anchorage Daily News. "It went on for a long time and there were several aftershocks, too. The pantry is empty all over the floor, the fridge is empty all over the floor."
Several other earthquakes, some with with preliminary magnitudes of 6.2 and 5.6, occurred in the same area within hours of the first one, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.