Well, this was an interesting week. I had so much for the column and then the big one hit on Friday morning. Events like that earthquake make us all realize that politics don’t matter as much as many of think they do. Rather than my regular weekly roundup, I’m going to focus on what happened, as well as the people who worked so hard to make sure we were all informed.
On Friday morning at 8:29 am a major 7.0 earthquake hit Southcentral Alaska. We all have stories about where we were when it hit. I was waking up. At first I thought it was one of the normal ones we routinely get. But after a few seconds I knew there was nothing routine about it. I ran under my doorway and realized that my roommate was in the shower. I really thought my house was going to come down. Once it finally stopped, we both got dressed and tried to go outside. But the force of the quake shifted my door frame and the dead bolt was jammed shut. It took a lot of force to get it open. The quake knocked out the power to my neighborhood, and much of Anchorage and the Valley. My dresser was knocked over. My refrigerator and oven shifted and were in the middle of the kitchen. Pictures were knocked down and some glass stuff had broken. I fared well compared to others, some of whom sustained major damage to the inside and outside of their homes.
When we finally got outside I saw that many of my neighbors were also outside. It was still dark and many of us had flashlights. We were all checking our buildings for damage. It was incredible to see how everyone was making sure everyone else was alright. My roommate and I got in his truck to go assess damage. Traffic was horrendous. All the grocery stores and most of the gas stations were closed. We ended up at the Korean owned mini-mart and liquor store on Old Seward and Dowling. The place was a mess but they were open. They were only taking cash. The gas station next store was open. There was a line to fill up and some people were filling up gas cans. I got some cash out of the ATM and went to get some food and water. Everyone in there was being respectful and helping out one another. The funniest part was all the people who were at the liquor store, buying the crucial supplies. One guy, probably 6’2” and 275 pounds, was walking out with two 24 packs and a bottle of whiskey. I told him, “Nice.” He said, “Fuck it. There is no way I am not going to have booze for this!”
We Were Lucky
As bad as the quake was, we were lucky in many ways. This was the most intense earthquake to hit Southcentral Alaska since the Good Friday quake in 1964. Strangely enough this one was also on a Friday. But there are some key differences between the two. The 1964 quake was a 9.2 but was 78 miles east of Anchorage. This one was a 7.0 but much closer, about 10 miles north of Anchorage. The 1964 quake was at a depth of 16 miles. This one was at a depth of 27 miles. If it had been shallower, or closer to Anchorage, it could have been a lot worse. It was also under land, not water, which reduced the likelihood of flooding or a tsunami. Most the people killed in the 1964 quake died as a result of the tsunami. According to the Wikipedia page, 15 died as a result of the quake and 106 from the subsequent tsunami, including people in Oregon and California.
The timing was also lucky. It was at a time when police were changing shifts, so they had more resources immediately available. Even though it was dark when it happened, it did not remain dark much longer. Also, other key responders (DOT, city, and other state officials) were at work and ready to respond. Imagine if this hit at 2 or 3 in the morning.
The response by Alaskans was incredible. DOT officials were at the major damage to the off ramp on Minnesota and International within an hour of the quake. Police had arrived almost immediately after it happened. DOT is already in the process of getting it repaired. DOT officials were also out inspecting bridges and roads not long after the quake hit.
The Alaska National Guard established an incident command center and got to work. Governor Bill Walker issued a deceleration of disaster within two hours of the quake hitting. Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, City Manager Bill Falsey, Police Chief Justin Doll, and Fire Chief Jodie Hettrick held multiple press conferences and provided critical updates and information. KTVA and KTUU provided great live coverage for all of us to watch.
The Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Public Media, and other media outlets were on top of things. They provided awesome coverage of what was happening and answered questions that we all had. Some of the best coverage was on the radio. Kurt Haider was on KFQD when it happened. He was giving constant information and taking calls from Alaskans with updates. Dave Stieren joined him around 10 am. They did an awesome job of informing all of us and keeping everyone calm. Malie Delgado and Casey Bieber, morning hosts on KGOT, also did a great job. They normally run a funny and lighthearted show, but on Friday they took on the serious role of providing Alaskans with crucial information and being a calming force on the radio.
Teachers and school officials also did a great job ensuring that kids were safe during and after the quake. There were many stories of teachers giving kids their jackets, gloves, and hats while waiting in the cold for their parents. As devastating as this quake was, it really showed the best of Alaska. When it comes down to it, we all help each other out.
I also have to give a major shout out to the Landmine team. Not long after the quake hit, Cale Green was on the phone with me ready to film. We met and spent the entire day filming damage, interviewing people, and putting together a story. Cale did an awesome job putting this piece together. Click here to watch it. Meanwhile, Paxson Woelber created an article for live updates from the Landmine Mobile Command Center (aka his house). He took tips and information from me and others, and shared information about the earthquake and safety alerts. You can see that article here. Many people thanked me for the information we were providing. I also want to thank all the people who sent me pictures, videos, and information. We were able to share all of that through the Alaska Landmine.
I think a lot of us are still processing what happened. Especially after all of these damn aftershocks. It really hit me yesterday when I was cleaning my office. We suffered some pretty extensive damage inside. I was cleaning up broken pictures and it just all kind of hit me. I am so happy I live in a place like Alaska. The people here are incredible. But this should also be a stern warning to us all. If this quake had been stronger, closer, shallower, things could have been a lot worse. We live in a place where this could happen any day. Alaska is one of the most seismically active regions in the world. It is up to all of us to be ready and prepared for this kind of thing. I’m glad we are all safe. This should be a wake up call to all of us.
This Week’s Loose Unit
How could I have forgotten this. This week’s Loose Unit is quite simply and literally the Pacific Plate. Talk about loose! Thanks to Will Bishop for the recommendation. I’m not sure how I did not realize that. My original idea was to make all the people who were sharing on social media and calling into the radio saying that there was another, bigger quake about to hit. That was also incredibly loose.
If you have a nomination for This Week’s Loose Unit, or if you have any political news, stories or gossip (or any old pics of politicians or public officials) please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.