Large earthquake off Alaska prompts tsunami fears, fleeing

SAND POINT, Alaska (NewsNation Now) — 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 National Tsunami Warning Center issued the warning for South Alaska and the Alaska Peninsula, Pacific coasts from Kennedy Entrance, Alaska to Unimak Pass, Alaska, including Sand Point, Cold Bay and Kodiak, which are sparsely populated.

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. The warning was downgraded to an advisory just over two hours after the quake hit. It was lifted later 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.”

Raynelle Gardner, a secretary at Sand Point School in the Aleutians East Borough School District, said things were hectic because “this is an evacuation point.”

Some schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were evacuated to higher ground, the district said on Twitter.

Public safety officials in King Cove sent out an alert urging residents in the coastal area to move inland to higher ground.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center tweeted that a tsunami with a height of 2 feet was observed at Sand Point, Alaska.

The size of the quake was originally reported as a magnitude of 7.4, but was 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.”

If you are in a tsunami warning area, you should evacuate inland or to higher ground above and beyond designated tsunami hazard zones or move to an upper floor of a multi-story building based on your situation.

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. The Alaska Earthquake Center said a magnitude 5.2 aftershock was reported 11 minutes later, centered roughly in the same area.

Later on Monday night, a Tsunami Advisory was issued for the State of Hawaii, but there wasn’t expected to be a major Tsunami.

Read more information from tsunami.gov.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This is a developing story. Check back for updates.