Large earthquake off Alaska prompts tsunami fears, fleeing

FILE - Alaska glacier mountains.
FILE - Alaska glacier mountains. (Getty Images.)

JUNEAU, Alaska – A magnitude 7.5 earthquake prompted a tsunami warning Monday for a nearly thousand-mile stretch of Alaska’s southern coast, with waves over 2 feet at the nearest community as the threat subsided.

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 (0.61 meters), according to the National Tsunami Warning Center. The warning was downgraded to an advisory just over two hours after the quake hit, and was lifted Monday night.

“It was a pretty good shaker here,” said David Adams, co-manager of Marine View Bed and Breakfast in Sand Point. “You could see the water kind of shaking and shimmering during the quake. Our truck was swaying big time.”

Adams didn’t take any photos or video: “It just kind of happened all of a sudden.”

The quake struck in the North Pacific Ocean just before 1 p.m. It was centered about 67 miles (118 kilometers) southeast of Sand Point, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center. The community is about 800 miles (1,288 km) southwest of Anchorage. The quake was recorded at a depth of 19 miles (30 kilometers).

The National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said the tsunami warning — and later advisory — was in effect for roughly 950 miles (1,529 kilometers), from 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Homer to Unimak Pass, about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northeast of Unalaska.

The quake was felt widely in communities along the southern coast, including Sand Point, Chignik, Unalaska and the Kenai Peninsula, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center, which said a magnitude 5.2 aftershock was reported 11 minutes later, centered roughly in the same area.

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.