Tsunami alerts were lifted on Tuesday for the U.S. West Coast and western Canada after a magnitude-7.9 earthquake struck in the Gulf of Alaska, sending the state’s coastal residents inland to seek shelter from possible tidal waves.
In Alaska, people packed into high schools and other evacuation centers after the quake hit shortly after midnight local time (0900 GMT).
Officials had warned residents as far south as San Francisco to be ready to evacuate coastal areas but by 5:15 a.m. PST (1315 GMT) the U.S. National Weather Service had lifted all tsunami advisories, watches and warnings for California, Oregon Washington and Alaska. Canadian officials lifted one for coastal British Colombia.
In Alaska, residents gathered in shelters on Kodiak Island, the closest land point to the temblor, around 160 miles (250 km) southeast of Chiniak, Alaska, at a depth of 25 km - considered shallow but with broader damage - according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the quake, which was initially measured at magnitude 8.2.
“People are fine,” said Neil Hecht, assistant principal of Kodiak High School, which was sheltering a few hundred people. “Spirits are high.”
Long lines of traffic formed in coastal communities including Homer and Seward, Alaska, residents said on social media.
In Homer, a few hundred cars were packed into its high school parking lot. Shawn Biessel, a 32-year-old park ranger, and his mother were in the lot, a few hundred feet above sea level.
“It was a really obvious, pretty strong, long quake. A good rumbler,” Biessel said in a phone interview. “It went on for a solid minute and after a while we thought we should get outside.”
Police drove through Biessel’s neighborhood with flashing lights to alert residents to evacuate, Biessel said.
San Francisco briefly warned residents within three blocks of the Pacific Ocean or five blocks of San Francisco Bay to prepare to evacuate. That warning was later lifted.
Earthquakes of similar magnitude are not uncommon in Alaska, which is seismically active. The state has recorded 11 tremors with a magnitude of 7 or greater within 373 miles (600 km) of Tuesday’s quake over the past century, according to Zachary Reeves, a USGS seismologist in Golden, Colorado.
The largest U.S. earthquake ever recorded was a magnitude-9.2 temblor in Alaska in March 1964, causing tidal waves of more than 100 feet (30 m) high that killed 131 people.
8.1 magnitude earthquake just hit Alaska now we got a Tsunami ???? in the BAY smh pic.twitter.com/E34WwFFpJ7— Mohamed “MoMo” (@Freetown_Mo) January 23, 2018
#Breaking: police in Kodiak Alaska just issued the following alert to residents:— kendis gibson (@kendisgibson) January 23, 2018
We are expecting a tsunami at 01:45 AM. We don’t know how big it might be. Evacuate to higher ground: High School and Middle School, Base of Pillar Mtn., North Star Elementary.
Tsunami Warning in Effect for;— Belinda Barnet (@manjusrii) January 23, 2018
* BRITISH COLUMBIA,
* SOUTHEAST ALASKA
* SOUTH ALASKA AND THE ALASKA PENINSULA
Tsunami Watch in Effect for;
Here is a look at the seismograph reading from the massive 8.0 quake off of Alaska. One buoy already showing water displacement of 10 meters (32 feet). Very concerning stuff... pic.twitter.com/7gg7Q2rfcu— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) January 23, 2018
Tue Jan 23 10:07:47 UTC 2018 event picture pic.twitter.com/qeKKqFTysB— NWS Tsunami Alerts (@NWS_NTWC) January 23, 2018
.Map of sea-floor geophysical features in Gulf of Alaska from a paper in 1973 shows a number of east-west trending fracture zones in Pacific plate. Possible that today's M7.9 earthquake occurred along one of these - reasonably consistent with faulting mechanism from seismic data pic.twitter.com/jV8t0bhUkw— Stephen Hicks (@seismo_steve) January 23, 2018
Here's the latest #tsunami watch information for California. You can also get for other areas with these links:— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) January 23, 2018
California: https://t.co/X3fqelOw4h pic.twitter.com/0CoCJ3JHKR
Here is the buoy which reported a 32 foot water rise shortly after the powerful 8.2 magnitude earthquake just south of Alaska. #TsunamiWarning Alaska and Canadian West Coast pic.twitter.com/TJgipkZ3qk— Bill Karins (@BillKarins) January 23, 2018
FYI, there was an 8.0 earthquake in Alaska. The following places are now under Tsnuami Watch, expected to hit at the listed times. Stay safe, everyone. pic.twitter.com/FKJFV9pzoI— Alanah Pearce (@Charalanahzard) January 23, 2018
Possible tsunami travel times after powerful magnitude 8.0 quake off Alaska pic.twitter.com/9RKihVQh4m— Jon Passantino (@passantino) January 23, 2018
Current location estimate of magnitude~8 offshore Alaska earthquake 10 mins ago seems to indicate that it occurred within the oceanic Pacific plate before it subducts at the trench. Possibly a normal faulting event? Significant tsunami risk. pic.twitter.com/G5BL1HwLi3— Stephen Hicks (@seismo_steve) January 23, 2018
The early morning 8.0 and then 8.2 magnitude #earthquake off the coast of Alaska has been downgraded to a 7.9. Tsunami watches/warnings still in effect for the entire Pacific Coast of the U.S. and Canada. Hawaii also included in the watch too. pic.twitter.com/uJOHDQhqww— Sean Bellafiore (@WeatherSean) January 23, 2018
Thumbnail/Banner Image: Reuters, David Moir