An enormous 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Alaska Wednesday night, stoking fears of a tsunami at surrounding shores. The tsunami watch affected numerous US states and swept as far south as Hawaii. Thankfully, there appears to have been no landfall of a tsunami, and little damage was reported in Alaska.
At the time of this writing, the state seems to have dodged the worst of the possible harm. Despite the earthquake being the largest detected in the United States in over 50 years, it seems to have completely missed causing any real damage. No injuries were reported, and the displaced water doesn’t seem to have sent any tsunamis hurtling toward land.
After years of relentless weather patterns and natural disasters, the US breathes a sigh of relief after this earthquake showed a bit of mercy.
The massive earthquake was detected around 10:15, local time, off the coast of Chignik, Alaska. The quake struck roughly 75 miles from shore, close enough to be concerning to local weather monitoring stations and Alaskan authorities.
The Alaska Earthquake Center reported that the moving earth could be felt all over the state, including on the Kodiak Islands. As the word of the quake spread, people on the islands took to higher ground, fearing the imminent arrival of tsunami waves.
Typically, massive earthquakes displace enormous amounts of water: incomprehensible tons upon tons of water are violently shoved up and away from the shaking fault lines. This displacement can ripple out and become extremely tall waves that then crash upon shores as far as thousands of miles away. Alaska appears to have gotten lucky in that such a wave didn’t materialize this time.
A tsunami alert was in effect around the southern coast of Alaska, across the Aleutian Islands, and as far south as Hawaii. After a few hours, the alert was lifted, and no monitoring stations reported any waves arriving on dry land.
Alaska is no stranger to earthquakes. The state sits atop a major fault line and sees plentiful smaller earthquakes every year. While these quakes are common, they don’t normally cause any damage or loss of life. This is largely due to the state’s extremely small population density: despite its enormous size, not many people live in the far-flung state.
A notable exception to this occurred in 1964 when a 9.2-magnitude quake shook Anchorage and claimed 125 lives. The quake was the strongest to ever strike North America and had the unfortunate distinction of also being a rare Alaskan earthquake that occurred near a major population center.