Magnitude 7.1 earthquake shakes Alaska

Posted at 8:09 AM, Jan 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-24 08:09:35-05

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A magnitude-7.1 earthquake hit southern Alaska early Sunday morning, awakening residents and shaking buildings in this earthquake-prone region. And it could be followed by more aftershocks for weeks.

The U.S. Geological Survey had listed the magnitude at 7.1 following the earthquake, but downgraded it to 6.8 before returning the it to the original measurement.

The earthquake struck about 1:30 a.m. Alaska time and was centered 55 miles southeast of the town of Illiamna and 160 miles southwest of Anchorage, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The earthquake was widely felt by residents of Anchorage, and there are reports of scattered power outages.

Mark McAllister who lives in Eagle River, just 15 miles from Anchorage, told FOX 17 when the earthquake first started they waited for it to pass.

“This one was not going away,” McAllister said, “Our entire house was shaking, I don’t even know how to describe it, it wasn’t rolling, this was shaking.”

Two hours later a second aftershock rattled the Cook inlet region of the state.

The Alaska Earthquake Center says preliminary reports put it at a magnitude-4.7.

Anchorage resident Ron Barta says his house shook about 1:34 a.m. when the earthquake hit. Barta, 55, says the pictures on the walls started moving, but there was no damage to his house and no one was hurt.

Barta, who has lived in Anchorage for about 10 years, says Alaskans on social media say the earthquake woke them up.

In the Kenai Peninsula, four homes were destroyed in natural gas explosions following the earthquake.

Kenai Fire Department battalion chief Tony Prior says explosions from a natural gas leak destroyed to of the homes. The other two were fully engulfed in flames by the time firefighters determined it was safe enough from gas for them to enter. The fire department focused on keeping the fires in these two homes from spreading to nearby houses.

Prior says there were no injuries. He says the second house explosion was major, and they are fotunate no one was hurt in that one.

Thirty homes have been evacuated in that neighborhood. Some people are taking shelter at the Kenai Armory.

Workers with the gas utility are examining the remaining homes to determine if the earthqauke severed gas lines to the homes and are establishing temporary lines with the hope displaced residents can return home.

Alaska State Seismologist Michael West says this is the largest earthquake in decades in this region of the state. He also says there’s been numerous smaller aftershocks, and those could continue for weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.