Earthquake Strikes Alaska: Causing Damage but no Deaths
On the morning of November 30th, two massive back to back earthquakes struck the remote U.S. State of Alaska. The quakes, which were 7.0 and 5.7 in magnitude, were the largest since the devastating 1964 earthquake which wiped out most of the capital city of Anchorage. Despite the strength and central location of the earthquakes, not a single serious injury or death was reported.
However, Alaskan public infrastructure, especially roads and power lines, was not so fortunate. The major highway near Anchorage, Glenn Highway, had large stretches that were twisted and collapsed by the shocks. Chris Riekena, an engineer for the Alaska Department of Transportation, who was on the road during the crash, called it, “a good 30 to 40 seconds of slow-motion disaster.” Despite the damage inflicted to the roads, it only took two days for the highway to be reopened.
After the quakes, the Governor of Alaska, Bill Walker (I-AK), quickly issued a Declaration of Emergency. In a series of tweets, he announced that his team was working with, “emergency responders to make sure Alaskans are safe.” Even though most issues were under control two days after the earthquakes, the Governor has yet to rescind the Declaration of Emergency out of an abundance of caution.
U.S. President Donald Trump, despite a busy week in the media, released a statement of support for the people of Alaska. He urged people to, “follow the orders of highly trained federal professionals who are there to help you.” and assured that, “your federal government will spare no expense.”
The common consensus of most Alaska residents and public officials was that the quakes could have been much worse. Despite the damage to roads and the temporary shutdown of the Anchorage airport, no buildings or bridges collapsed, and not a single person was injured or killed. This miracle has been credited primarily to the incredibly rigorous building code in place throughout Alaska.
Alaska paid a heavy price in 1964, when a 9.0 magnitude triggered a powerful tsunami, killing 139 people and leveling most of Anchorage. Out of the rubble came a collective resolve to never repeat the devastating tragedy, and stringent construction regulations. Alaska adopted the International Building Code, which is the highest standard across the world for disaster prevention.
For the residents of Alaska, this meant safer buildings, roads, and bridges across the state. Every structure is forced to be purposely strengthened against earthquakes and must have reinforced concrete to help withstand shaking. Even bridges use viscous dampers to lessen the tension on their supports and allow them to move with the earthquake to lessen effects. The culmination of these precautions came on December 1 when buildings across the state were able to survive the quake.
Citizens across the state appeared not to be too thrown off by the major earthquake. Despite being a little rattled, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz seemed to echo the sentiments of many residents when he said, “I would characterize this as a demonstration that Anchorage is prepared for these kinds of emergencies.”