Quake rattles Juneau

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2000

Sound sleepers missed it, but this morning's earthquake shook things up for a lot of people around northern Southeast.

Paul Whitmore, a geophysicist at the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer, said the earthquake struck at 1:43 a.m. The center's preliminary estimate of its intensity is magnitude 6.0, he said. The quake was followed by two sizable aftershocks at 2:07 a.m. and 2:37 a.m. - with estimated magnitudes of 4.0 and 4.6 respectively.

Whitmore said the temblor didn't trigger a tsunami, a seismic sea wave. But small aftershocks will likely continue for a while, he said.

``I'm sure there will be some smaller ones, but they will decrease in duration and intensity,'' Whitmore said.

The epicenter of the earthquake was about 25 miles beneath the Pacific Ocean some 95 miles northwest of Sitka.

The Juneau Police Department received some 75 calls about the earthquake, with most people just checking to see what had happened. Many slept through it.

Police Sgt. Ben Coronell said the town appears to have weathered the rocking well.

``There were no reports of structural damage,'' he said. ``There was minor damage - things falling off shelves.''

Not even a can of soup fell from the shelves at Juneau's major grocery stores, according to managers. The impact of the quake appears to have been largely limited to increased heart rates around town.

Mary Swigart, who lives near the Juneau Airport, said the shaking alarmed her, but didn't seem to bother her dog much.

``It really scared me,'' she said. ``I have a toy Yorkie and he didn't say a word.'' The small Yorkshire terrier did curl up closer to her legs though, she said.

In Skagway, John D. O'Daniel woke to hear what he thought were three or four men stomping on his roof. Then, he said, his home moved side-to-side for 5 seconds.

In Pelican, 56-year-old Aggie Moy was more upset by the sound than the shake.

``I was just about asleep, but then I heard a rumbling,'' she said. ``I thought my house was coming down, and I went for the door. The pictures on my TV went flying.''

The rumbling is caused by the sound of buildings rocking and rolling with a temblor, not the quake itself, said Whitmore of the tsunami center.

Yakutat Mayor Tom Maloney said his town has been having a nasty winter so far, on top of a bad fishing year. It would take a pretty big earthquake to cause much of a commotion there.

``If it could have shook a whole lot of money out of a money tree, it would have made me happy,'' he said. ``I didn't feel it.''

The last quake to shake things up a bit in Juneau struck on the evening of Oct. 18. Then, a magnitude 4.7 quake hit, centered about 80 miles northwest of Sitka. The area's last major quakes occurred in 1987 and 1988, when temblors close to a magnitude 8.0 rattled out from under the Gulf of Alaska.

The 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska measured 8.5 on the Richter scale and was centered in Prince William Sound. Scientists later revised that reading to 9.2 on the moment magnitude scale, which has supplanted the Richter scale as a measurement of earthquake intensity.

The Good Friday quake generated waves that devastated several coastal communities and killed 131 people as far south as California.

Record your experience of the quake, go to JEforums.



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