Tsunami warning issued after 7.5 magnitude earthquake strikes near Alaska

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SAND POINT, Alaska (KSEE/KGPE) — A preliminary 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck near Alaska on Monday, triggering a tsunami warning.

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. The community is about 800 miles (1,288 km) southwest of Anchorage. The quake was recorded at a depth of 19 miles (30 kilometers).

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

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

The tsunami warning was issued by the National Tsunami Warning Center, following an earthquake off Sand Point, Alaska.

The size of the quake was originally reported to have been 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.”

The National Weather Service posted a tsunami warning for parts of the Alaska coastline, from Kennedy Entrance, 40 miles southwest of Homer, to Unimak Pass, 80 miles northeast of Unalaska.

Authorities in King Cove, a city located in the Aleutian Islands, issued the following statement for residents:

If you are located in this coastal area, move inland to higher ground. Tsunami warnings mean that a tsunami with significant inundation is possible or is already occurring. Tsunamis are a series of waves dangerous many hours after initial arrival time. The first wave may not be the largest. At 1255 PM Alaska Daylight Time on October 19 an earthquake with preliminary magnitude 7.5 occurred 55 miles southeast of Sand Point Alaska. Estimated tsunami start times for selected sites are; Sand Point Alaska 155 PM. AKDT. October 19. Cold Bay Alaska 245 PM. AKDT. October 19. Kodiak Alaska 250 PM. AKDT. October 19. The tsunami warning will remain in effect until further notice. Refer to the internet site tsunami.gov for more information.

Unalaska officials sent out a message saying the city is just outside the warning zone and they aren’t ordering evacuations right now. Unalaska public safety officials earlier Monday had sent out a release saying they would be conducting tests of the community’s tsunami warning sirens.

The 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.

“It was a pretty good shaker here,” said David Adams, co-manager of Marine View Bed and Breakfast in Sand Point. “We’re doing OK.” He said all guests were accounted for and “the structure itself is sound.”

“You could see the water kind of shaking and shimmering during the quake,” he said. “Our truck was swaying big time.” He didn’t take any photos or video: “It just kind of happened of all of a sudden.”

Rita Tungul, front desk assistant at the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Unalaska, said she felt some shaking but it wasn’t strong. Her coworker didn’t feel the quake at all, she said.

Connie Newton, owner of the Bearfoot Inn, a grocery store, liquor store and small hotel in Cold Bay, said the temblor it felt like someone drove into her building with a truck. Still, nothing fell to the ground and she suffered no damage because she earthquake-proofed her stores by installing 2-inch (5-cm) risers around the outside of her selves.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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