An earthquake of magnitude 7.5 prompted a tsunami warning Monday for a nearly thousand-mile stretch of the southern coast of Alaska with waves at the nearest community over 2 feet as the threat subsided.
According to the National Tsunami Warning Center, the quake was centered near Sand Point, a town of about 900 people off the Alaska Peninsula where wave levels topped 2 feet (0.61 meters) late Monday. Just over two hours after the quake hit, the warning was downgraded to an advisory.
"It was a pretty good shaker," David Adams, co-manager of Sand Point's Marine View Bed and Breakfast, said. During the quake, you could see the water kind of shaking and shimmering. Our truck was swaying a lot.
No photos or videos were taken by Adams: "It just kind of happened all of a sudden."
In the North Pacific Ocean, the quake struck just before 1 p.m. According to the Alaska Earthquake Center, it was centered about 67 miles (118 kilometers) southeast of Sand Point. The community is approximately 1,288 km (800 miles) southwest of Anchorage. The quake was recorded at a depth of 30 kilometers (19 miles).
The National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said that for about 950 miles (1,529 kilometers), from 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Homer to Unimak Pass, about 80 miles (129 km) northeast of Unalaska, the tsunami warning, and later advisory, was in effect.
According to the Alaska Earthquake Center, which said that a magnitude 5.2 aftershock was reported 11 minutes later, centered roughly in the same area, the quake was commonly felt in communities along the southern coast, including Sand Point, Chignik, Unalaska, and the Kenai Peninsula.
Aleutians East Borough School District Superintendent Patrick Mayer said parents picked up their children from Sand Point School, which also served as an evacuation point. At the other four schools in the district, the closest to which is 90 miles away, he said, the earthquake was felt to varying degrees.
Mayer said that since it's on high ground, a school bus was dispatched to a fish processing facility to bring workers to the school.
The workers were to wear masks in a community where there were only "limited cases," to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, he said.
Public safety officials in King Cove urged residents to remain vigilant and to stay off the beach and out of harbors and marinas after the warning was downgraded. According to the National Tsunami Warning Center, waves at King Cove by late afternoon were less than 2 feet (0.61 meters).
The magnitude of the earthquake was originally reported to be 7.4, but was updated to 7.5, said Paul Caruso, a geophysicist with the U.S. Survey of Geology. An earthquake of this size, he said, is not a surprise in this area.
"This is an area under the North American Plate where the Pacific Plate is subducting. And because of that, under the North American Plate, the Pacific Plate actually goes where it melts,' Caruso said, noting that's why there are volcanoes in the region. "And so in that area, we usually have large, magnitude 7 earthquakes."
Rita Tungul, an assistant at the front desk at the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Unalaska, said she was shaking a bit, but it wasn't powerful. Her coworker, she said, didn't feel the quake at all.
Connie Newton, the owner of the Bearfoot Inn, a grocery store, a liquor store, and a small Cold Bay hotel, said the tremor felt like someone was driving a truck into her building. Still, nothing fell to the ground and she said she suffered no damage because, by installing 2-inch (5-cm) risers around the outside of her shelves, she earthquake-proofed her stores.