7.2 Anchorage earthquake damages buildings, roads, shuts down Alaska pipeline

Photos of many damaged roads and stranded vehicles have been posted to social media as a result of the major earthquake that occured Friday morning in Anchorage. Photo: Twitter

John Tetpon

Earthquake occurred about 8:30 am with its epicenter seven miles north of Anchorage, Gov. Walker declares disaster

A major earthquake struck Anchorage, Alaska and surrounding areas at 8:30 a.m. Friday morning prompting Gov. Bill Walker to issue a disaster declaration. The National Weather Service also issued a tsunami warning soon after the 7.2 earthquake, but it was pulled back a few hours later. Police said there are some homes, highways, schools, and roads with major damage and there are reports of intermittent power outages.

See related coverage with multiple tweeted photos of the earthquakes effects in Anchorage

Tsunami warning canceled in Anchorage after 7.0 earthquake

The epicenter was reported to be about seven miles north of Anchorage. There are no reports of any deaths due to the quake at this time. Anchorage has a population of about 300,000 people and is the largest city in the state.

There were initial concerns in Indian Country with specific regards to the Native Leaders and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials who were in Alaska for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Providers Conference.

The Indian Affairs Twitter account wished prayers to everyone the affected areas of Alaska and publicly tweeted that Indian Affairs staff, including Asst. Sec. John Tashuda were safe.

The Alyeska Pipeline Service Company said they have shut down the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline as a precaution. The pipeline carries crude oil from Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope to the port city of Valdez located about 150 miles east of Anchorage.

The major quake was not one that rolled slowly but was about five minutes of a strong and violent shaker. Items crashed to the floor and pictures fell off the walls in many homes.

The Friday morning quake struck just about the same time that local schools opened and as many people started their workday. There are reports of collapsed bridges and roads, broken gas lines and snarled traffic in the city. All students are safe, according to the Anchorage School District.

Nerve-wracking aftershocks are still rocking the city. Some shoppers say many stores are closed – except those that serve liquor and wine. “But the lines are really long,” one said.

Anchorage is located near the Denali fault. The fault is located in Alaska's Denali National Park, formerly known as Mt. McKinley, and to the east. The National Park includes part of a massive mountain range more than 600 miles long. Along the Denali Fault, lateral and vertical offset movement is taking place as evidenced by many earthquakes in the region.

A 9.2 struck Alaska in 1964 and caused more than 100 deaths and is identified as the strongest earthquake in the United States.

The Alaska Earthquake Center reported more than 150,000 earthquakes in Alaska over the last five years. Thirty-one of those had magnitudes of 6 or greater, and four had magnitudes of at least 7. Seventy-five percent of all earthquakes in the United States with magnitudes larger than five happen in Alaska, the Center said.

According to a release issued by the Alaska Department of Administration, the William A. Egan Civic & Convention Center shelter is available and some roads are passable while others are closed.

The administration issued the following alerts:

Shelter update:

The Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center has lost access to utilities. Those that are seeking shelter and cannot reach their home are now advised to make their way to the William A. Egan Civic & Convention Center.

Road updates:

Kenai Spur Highway—Passable with care. Damage at MP 19 and MP 35. Cracks in the roadway.

Seward Highway—Closed at MP 112 due to a rock slide.

Glenn Highway—Major damage at Eagle River. The highway is closed, but a detour through Eagle River is possible.

Parks/Glenn Interchange—Major damage, but still appears to be open.

Richardson Highway—Minor rockslide, but otherwise passable at this time.

The Department of Transportation infrastructure situation update webpage has updates on road conditions and closures:

This is a developing story and Indian Country Today will continue with updates as additional details emerge.