Earthquake near Sand Point, Alaska updated to magnitude 7.6
The large earthquake prompted tsunami warnings for Southwest Alaska that were later canceled for the area
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The United States Geological Survey has updated the magnitude of Monday’s earthquake near Sand Point to magnitude 7.6 after reviewing additional global data. The USGS says the earthquake occurred just before 1 p.m on Monday.
The large earthquake prompted the Tsunami Warning Center to issue a tsunami warning, which was later downgraded to a tsunami advisory, for parts of Southwest Alaska. Monday night, the center canceled the tsunami alert.
Several large aftershocks have been reported near Sand Point after the magnitude 7.6 earthquake. USGS recorded five magnitude 5.2 to 5.9 earthquakes in the hour after the magnitude 7.6 earthquake. Over 50 total different aftershocks were recorded near Sand Point in the following day.
This is the second-largest earthquake in Alaska since the 7.1 recorded in Anchorage in November of 2018. This is the second large earthquake Southwest Alaska has seen in the second half of 2020. In July, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit 75 miles south of Chignik, Alaska, which also prompted tsunami warnings for the area.
Micahel West, director of the Alaska Earthquake Center, said Monday’s earthquake was related to the one from July, though he said it didn’t quite count as an aftershock.
“When an earthquake like the earthquake in July happens, the Earth, for many months, even years, moves and shifts and readjusts to a new position, and the earthquake today was one of those, part of that response,” West said.
West said, in the six hours following the quake, aftershocks between 3.0 and 5.9 were felt, and it’s likely smaller ones will continue for many months.
Candace Nielsen was in her home in Cold Bay, Alaska when the earthquake started on Monday. She and her three children huddled underneath a table as Nielsen tried to comfort her daughter, who she says was traumatized from the earthquake in July.
“We are getting very accustomed to these earthquakes, and I’ve learned to just accept that this is what we have to endure when we decide to live between volcanoes and an active plate, the ring of fire,” Nielsen said.
Jeremy Zidek, public information officer with the state, said that a State Emergency Operations Center preliminary report of damage that occurred due to the earthquake included minor damage in a harbor, a few cracks in a gravel road and a causeway slightly sinking.
A tsunami advisory was issued around 3 p.m. Monday and in effect for Unimak Pass and Kennedy Entrance in Southwest Alaska.
Waves were estimated to arrive in Sand Point at 1:55 p.m., which saw a 2-foot wave. Cold Bay was expected to see waves at 2:45 p.m. and Kodiak at 2:50 p.m. As of 3:36 p.m. Monday, the largest wave measured was 2.3 feet in Sand Point. King Cove saw a 1.6-foot wave, Nikolski a 0.2-foot wave, Unalaska a 0.3-foot wave and Chignik Bay a 1.1-foot wave.
Monday evening, the advisory was extended to Hawaii as tsunami waves from the Alaska earthquake were recorded on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii. The advisory has since been dropped for all locations.
The Kodiak Emergency Operations Center activated warning sirens, but the EOC said it was not aware of any earthquake damage in Kodiak.
In a Facebook post, the Homer Police Department asked people in low elevation areas to move to higher ground, including the evacuation sites at Homer High School, West Homer Elementary School, Faith Lutheran Church, Paul Banks Elementary School and United Methodist Church.
Some schools outside Homer in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District also evacuated. In a tweet, the KPBSD said the community of Kachemak-Selo should evacuate to Razdolna School, both Nanwalek School and Port Graham were moved to higher ground and the community of Seldovia was evacuated to Susan B. English School.
“Right now, with everybody evacuating, it’s really important they wear masks and keep a little bit of distance because we’ve got high risk down in the southern Kenai Peninsula now too,” KPBSD Spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff said of COVID-19 precautions during the evacuation.
This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.
Digital reporter Malia Barto contributed to this story.
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