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7.9 shaker rattles peninsula

Earthquake rocks Alaska

Posted: Monday, November 04, 2002

ANCHORAGE -- 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.

''It shook for a good 30 seconds,'' Turner said.

It did not generate a tsunami, he said.

Alaska State Troopers spokes-person Greg Wilkinson said a 76-year-old woman in Mentasta broke her arm after slipping on stairs during the quake.

The quake triggered the trans-Alaska pipeline's automatic detection system, said Mike Heatwole, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spokesperson. Operators then manually shut the pipeline down shortly after 2 p.m.

 

A crack caused by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked a sparsely populated area of interior Alaska, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2002, runs across the Parks Highway near Healy, Alaska. .Bruce Turner of the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said the quake hit at 1:13 p.m Alaska Standard Time and was centered 90 miles south of Fairbanks.

AP Photo/Jimmy Tohill

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 quake also was felt throughout the Kenai Peninsula.

Unocal's Monopod platform detected the vibrations, and the turbins shut down automatically, as they are supposed to, said Roxanne Sinz, spokesperson for Unocal. Information on other platforms in Cook Inlet was not available at the Clarion's deadline.

Though the quake didn't knock items from the shelves at area stores, cashiers at Nikiski's M&M Supermarket said they definitely felt the tremor.

"I thought I was getting sick," said cashier Andrea Jefferys. "Then other cashiers said they felt sick, and I thought, 'We're not all getting sick.'"

"If it got any stronger, we would have went outside," said cashier Janice Broussard.

 

The vertical support members, the H-shape devises that hold the above ground portions of the trans-Alaska pipeline, lay broken under the pipeline about 40 miles south of Delta, Alaska, caused by a major earthquake Sunday, Nov. 3, 2002. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. spokesman Mike Heatwole reported the pipe was intact but support structures were damaged. Bruce Turner of the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, Alaska, said the 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit at 1:13 p.m Alaska Standard Time and was centered 90 miles south of Fairbanks.

AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News Miner

Air traffic specialist Ken Sarver said it took a while to detect the quake from the Kenai Municipal Airport air traffic control tower, but the prolonged shaking was noticeable.

"It was the longest one any of us have been through," he said. "The boss called and asked if we were sea sick."

Planes continued to arrive and depart after the earthquake as usual, Sarver said. He added that if the quake had been any worse, flights could have been delayed until the runway was checked for damage, but in this case it was not necessary.

Troopers and police departments said no damage was reported on the peninsula.

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.

 

University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Antonius Otto, left, and his wife Isabelle Otto clean up his office on the seventh floor of the UAF Elvey Building in Fairbanks, Alaska, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2002 following a earthquake that measured 7.9 magnitude. The major earthquake rocked a sparsely populated area of interior Alaska early Sunday afternoon, cracking highways and roads, knocking over fuel tanks and shaking rural homes.

AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, John Hagen

Troopers responded to several reports of damaged roads in the area, including a 3-foot crack in the George Parks Highway 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.

 

University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student Raj Kombiyil walks out of his shook up office following an earthquake, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2002, in Fairbanks, Alaska. A major earthquake with the preliminary magnitude of 7.9 shook interior Alaska, cracking highways and roads, knocking over fuel tanks and shaking rural homes. The epicenter of the quake was about 90 mile south of Fairbanks and was felt in Anchorage about 270 miles south.

AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, John Hagen

''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, as well. 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 locate 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,'' he said.

Peninsula Clarion reporters Jenni Dillon and Cactus Shepherd contributed to this story.



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