Earthquake Trembles Interior Alaska
Nov. 04, 2002
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ A major earthquake rocked a sparsely populated area of interior Alaska early Sunday afternoon, triggering an automatic shutdown of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and cracking highways and roads.
The magnitude 7.9 quake, centered 90 miles south of Fairbanks, was strongly felt in Anchorage about 270 miles to the south. It hit at 1:13 p.m. Alaska Standard Time, said Bruce Turner of the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.
The state patrol said no injuries were immediately reported.
``It shook for a good 30 seconds,'' Turner said. It did not generate a tsunami, he said.
The quake triggered the trans-Alaska pipeline's automatic detection system, said Mike Heatwole, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spokesman. Operators then manually shut the pipeline down shortly after 2 p.m.
Heatwole said helicopters were flying the length of the 800-mile pipeline and ground crews are physically inspecting for damage. None had been detected by late afternoon.
The earthquake occurred on the Denali Fault and had a shallow depth, said John Lahr, geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colo. Shallow earthquakes generally are felt over a wider area.
``We expected this would have surface rupture that geologists could see on the ground and study,'' he said.
Troopers responded to several reports of damaged roads in the area, including a 3-foot crack opened up in the main road between Fairbanks and Anchorage, said Lt. Lee Farmer.
``Anybody with one of those lowriders out of Anchorage probably doesn't want to head that way,'' Farmer said.
Fuel tanks were knocked over in Slana, which has no electric utility; families use diesel fuel to power generators. Sharrel Webster said she was likely to lose food in her freezer. A semitrailer the family uses for storage was tipped over on its side.
Randy Schmoker, a metal worker in Porcupine Creek, was in his shop when he felt the ground move.
``I thought, 'Oh good, an earthquake,' and then it got worse and worse,'' he said.
The quake tipped over a band saw and other heavy tools, his 300-gallon outdoor fuel tank and moved a 150-pound anvil 20 feet across the floor. Schmoker said he's a big game hunter and usually enjoys short earthquakes.
``A charging brown bear I can handle,'' he said. ``This scared the hell out of me.''
Jay Capps, who owns a small grocery store midway between Tok and Glennallen, said he felt a low-level shaking for 15 or 20 seconds before the quake hit.
``It shook so bad you could not stand up on the front porch,'' Capps said. ``It sounded like the trees were breaking roots under the ground.'' He said nearly everything fell off store shelves.
``My store smells like liquid smoke, picante sauce and mayonnaise,'' he said.
Earthquakes above magnitude 7 are considered major _ capable of widespread, heavy damage.
In 1964, the ``Good Friday'' earthquake left 131 people dead in Alaska. Current measurements put that quake's magnitude at 9.2.
A moderate earthquake shook the central Plains earlier Sunday. The 4.3 quake hit about 2:45 p.m., some 30 miles northwest of O'Neill, Neb., the geological survey said.
Moderate earthquakes also shook Indonesia and Pakistan earlier Sunday, but the activity is not related nor unusual, said Waverly Person, geophysicist at U.S. Geological Survey.
``On any given day, we located about 50 earthquakes throughout the world,'' Person said. ``This to us is pretty normal.''
He said the death toll from an Italian quake last week may have made more people notice the quake activity.
``They begin to think all of this adds up, but it doesn't,'' Person said.