More than 230 small earthquakes have hit parts of Alaska since Friday, when a 7.0-magnitude quake knocked out power, ripped open roads and splintered buildings near Anchorage, the US Geological Survey said.
Still, local officials said that life was slowly returning to normal after Friday’s magnitude 7 earthquake, even as 4 to 8 inches of snow was expected Sunday.
“It’s interesting how things look different in the light of a new day,” Anchorage Municipal Manager Bill Falsey said, adding that aftershocks have been tapering off.
“But in terms of a disaster, I think it says more about who we are than what we suffered. I would characterize this as a demonstration that Anchorage is prepared for these kind of emergencies.”
Berkowitz said during a Saturday night press conference the city was returning to normal.
“We know that we have to be prepared because we’re never impervious to earthquakes or the weather,” he said.
No fatalities or serious injuries were reported, officials said. In Alaska’s largest city – with a population of about 300,000 – airports, hospitals, emergency services and most businesses were operating.
“The power is up. The heat is on. The communication lines are opening,” Falsey said.
“At this point, though, we’re not seeing a significant amount of bridge damage,” Falsey said.
Most of the smaller earthquakes since Friday’s big one were not felt. More than a dozen were higher than magnitude 4 and a handful greater than magnitude 5, Falsey said.
A 5.2 aftershock about 11 p.m. Friday was the second-biggest since a 5.7 temblor hit minutes after the main quake, said Gavin Hayes, a research geophysicist with the USGS.
“That would have given people a shake and probably a bit of a scare given what they went through yesterday,” he told CNN.
The 7.0 earthquake sent residents scurrying for cover when it hit about 8:30 a.m. Friday. The quake was centered 10 miles northeast of Anchorage.
“It was very loud when it came,” Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said. “It was very clear that this was something bigger than what we normally experience. We live in earthquake country so folks … but this was a big one.”
‘This was a big one’
Roads buckled under passing cars and products tumbled from shelves. In court, panicked attorneys scurried under tables as a room rocked from side to side.
“It was very loud when it came,” Berkowitz said Friday. “It was very clear that this was something bigger than what we normally experience. We live in earthquake country … but this was a big one.”
Social media and television news video depicted scenes of chaos, including students taking shelter under desks while sending texts from their phones, roads buckling under passing cars, grocery store products tumbling from shelves, hospital workers scrambling for cover and panicked attorneys under tables as a courtroom rocked from side to side.
“It was absolutely terrifying,” Kristin Dossett, a resident of Palmer, Alaska, told CNN.
It was the most violent quake she felt in her 37 years in a region where temblors are common, Dossett said. One aftershock moved her piano a foot and half from the wall.
“It shook like I have never felt anything shake before,” she said.
“It just didn’t stop. It kept going and got louder and louder, and things just fell everywhere — everything off my dressers, off my bookcases, my kitchen cupboard. Just broken glass everywhere.”
Despite the confusion, Anchorage authorities said Friday night that no fatalities or serious injuries were reported.
Hettrick also said the fire and police departments haven’t received any reports of missing people.
The Anchorage School District canceled classes for Friday because of the earthquake and for next Monday and Tuesday to assess facility damage.
“Students did a great job with their training and earthquake preparation,” she said. “Students know to drop, get under something and hold on. That is their desks.”
Bishop added that of the 48,000 students and 6,000 adults in the school system, only two injuries were reported. One was a custodial employee who had injuries related to broken glass and one student had a possible broken wrist.
Seismologists predict more aftershocks in coming days and weeks
Gov. Bill Walker issued a disaster declaration, according to a post on his Facebook page.
“I could tell this was bigger than anything I’d been in before, and it wasn’t going to stop,” resident Philip Peterson said.
“I just jumped under my desk and had to ride it out,” Peterson said.
Michael West, the Alaska state seismologist, told CNN the 7.0 earthquake was felt up to 400 miles outside of Anchorage. West said damage reports across the region were beginning to arrive at the Alaska Earthquake Information Center.
West called it the most significant earthquake in Anchorage since 1964.
“I think it’s safe to say that, not measured in magnitude or location but in terms of how strong the ground itself shook during the earthquake,” he said during a question-and-answer session at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Two of the city’s main hospitals – Alaska Regional and Providence Alaska Medical Center – sustained damage but emergency rooms were open, according to hospital officials.
The Anchorage Police Department said in a statement that it was handling “multiple situations” and reported “major infrastructure damage” across the city.
Blair Braverman said she was staying in a hotel with her husband when the quake hit. She grew up in California and was familiar with earthquakes “but this was next-level,” she said.
“My husband sort of crawled across the room and threw himself on top of me and we crawled to the bathroom together and waited it out in the doorway and waited out the aftershocks.”
“The structure of the roof just collapsed,” one said. “We can’t even get into our studio right now. There were computers flying, cameras toppling over.”
CNN’s Amanda Watts, Dakin Andone,Shawn Nottingham, Chuck Johnston, Keith Allen and Matthew Hilk contributed to this report.