One of the largest earthquakes to hit the U.S. since 1965 jolted the Aleutian Islands Monday afternoon.
The U.S. Geological Survey now puts the earthquake at 7.9 in magnitude. It was centered about 13 miles southeast of Little Sitkin Island and caused more than 12 major aftershocks.
The quake was recorded at a depth of nearly 70 miles, which limited the threat of a tsunami.
“When they get that deep, they’re less likely to trigger tsunamis,” said Paul Whitmore, director at the National Tsunami Center in Palmer. “They still can in the local area, but they don’t pose a threat for distance areas.”
The National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer initially issued a tsunami warning, which was downgraded and eventually cancelled late in the afternoon. No injuries or damage had been reported as of Monday evening.
The State Emergency Operations Center was activated to respond to the earthquake and tsunami warnings. Staff there contacted all the communities that could be affected to make sure they got the warning.
John Madden, director of Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said automated systems worked and the sirens rang in Aleutian Island communities.
“We also had direct telephone contact with the leadership of the communities and made sure they knew the warning, that they knew what their responsibilities were and what decisions they had to make,” Madden said.
The tsunami warning reached Adak and many residents fled their homes.
“I saw that the water level dropped as I did a patrol along with our chief of police,” said Layton Lockett, Adak’s city manager.
People in Adak said they felt the ground shake for about a minute. Debra Sharrah, Adak city clerk, said residents heard the windows rattle when the quake hit and became concerned when the shaking didn’t stop after a few seconds.
“You know how you have a pencil and you flip it between your fingers and it looks like it’s kind of curving back and forth? The lampposts were swaying back and forth,” Sharrah said.
Adak city officials said they haven’t seen any damage to infrastructure, but are checking underground water pipes and electric cables.