A colossal 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit the coast of Alaska on Monday, sparking a tsunami warning and sending families fleeing for higher ground.
The quake was centered near Sand Point, a city of about 900 people off the Alaska Peninsula where wave levels late Monday topped 2 feet, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center.
National Weather Service officials issued a tsunami warning for a nearly thousand-mile stretch of Alaska´s southern coast, telling residents ‘you are in danger.’
‘A series of powerful waves and strong currents may impact coasts near you,’ the alert said.
The National Weather Service urged residents to stay away from coastal waters until officials say it is safe to return.
Video also showed tsunami sirens also being sounded in coastal towns.
The warning was downgraded to an advisory just over two hours after the quake hit.
The National Weather Service issued a tsunami warning on Monday evening near the Alaska’s Aleutians Islands
A biker leads a line of cars driving off the Homer Spit in Homer, Alaska, after a tsunami evacuation order was issued for low-lying areas in Homer
Before the tsunami warning, officials recorded a 7.5 magnitude earthquake on the southeast coast of Alaska
The cities of Sand Point, Cold Bay and Kodiak were listed in the tsunami warning on Monday evening
The warning was issued for the cities of Sand Point, Cold Bay and Kodiak, all of which are sparsely populated.
Estimated tsunami arrival times were expected in Sand Point at 5.55pm, Cold Bay at 6.45pm and Kodiak at 6.50pm EST, the National Weather Service wrote.
Some schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were evacuating to higher ground, the district said on Twitter.
Patrick Mayer, superintendent of the Aleutians East Borough School District, said parents picked up their children from Sand Point School, which also served an evacuation point.
The earthquake was felt to varying degrees at the other four schools in the district, the closest of which is 90 miles away, he said.
Mayer said a school bus was dispatched to a fish processing facility to bring workers to the school since it’s on high ground.
The workers were to wear masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, he said, in a community where there have been only ‘limited cases.’
‘A series of powerful waves and strong currents may impact coasts near you,’ the alert from the National Weather Service said
Pictured: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed tsunami warning areas along the coast of Alaska after an earthquake struck on Monday
The size of the quake was originally reported to have been a magnitude of 7.4, but has been revised to a 7.5, said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
He said an earthquake of this size, in this area, is not a surprise.
‘This is an area where the Pacific Plate is subducting underneath the North American Plate. And because of that, the Pacific Plate actually goes underneath the North American Plate, where it melts,’ Caruso said, noting that´s why there are volcanoes in the region.
‘And so we commonly have large, magnitude 7 earthquakes in that area.’
The National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said the tsunami warning was in effect for roughly 950 miles, from 40 miles southeast of Homer to Unimak Pass, about 80 miles northeast of Unalaska.
The Alaska Earthquake Center said the quake was widely felt in communities along the southern coast, including Sand Point, Chignik, Unalaska and the Kenai Peninsula.
‘It was a pretty good shaker here,’ said David Adams, co-manager of Marine View Bed and Breakfast in Sand Point. ‘We´re doing OK.’ He said all guests were accounted for and ‘the structure itself is sound.’
‘You could see the water kind of shaking and shimmering during the quake,’ he said. ‘Our truck was swaying big time.’ He didn´t take any photos or video: ‘It just kind of happened of all of a sudden.’
Rita Tungul, front desk assistant at the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Unalaska, said she felt some shaking but it wasn´t strong. Her coworker didn´t feel the quake at all, she said.
Connie Newton, owner of the Bearfoot Inn, a grocery store, liquor store and small hotel in Cold Bay, said the temblor it felt like someone drove into her building with a truck. Still, nothing fell to the ground and she suffered no damage because she earthquake-proofed her stores by installing 2-inch (5-cm) risers around the outside of her selves.
The Alaska Earthquake Center reported three additional earthquakes after the initial one, with magnitudes between 5.0 and 5.2.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.