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Strong earthquake jolts Anchorage

No immediate damage reports from magnitude 5.4 quake felt across 300 miles

Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A strong earthquake jolted Anchorage on Monday, sending people diving under desks and huddling in doorways but apparently causing no damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.4 struck about 24 miles from the town of Willow at 11:28 a.m. The epicenter was 58 miles from the state's largest city, where the rumbling continued for several moments.

"Things were swinging pretty good and shaking, like pictures on the wall, bottles rattling - and my blood pressure went up at least 20 points," said Pam Rannals, a bartender in Talkeetna, about 30 miles from the epicenter. "We had bears in the parking lot last night and now the earthquake. Those are the talk of the town."

She said she hadn't heard of any damage and even the liquor bottles stayed put. There also were no immediate reports of damage or injury anywhere else, just some reports of dishes falling off shelves, but the shaking was felt over a wide swath of southcentral Alaska, the state's most populated region.

The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center reported the magnitude at a slightly weaker 5.3 and said no tsunami was generated. The USGS had reported a preliminary magnitude of 5.7.

The quake was 26 miles deep, which is why its damage effect was minimal, according to Janet Herr at the tsunami center. For that reason, she said, it was felt over a large area, with reports coming from as far north as Fairbanks to as far south as Kenai, a span of more than 300 miles.

Aftershocks were shaking the area, with one about a half-hour later measuring 4.0.

Alaska is seismically active, and has frequent earthquakes although most are too small or too remote to be felt. The last one that measured stronger was a 5.8 in southern Alaska on Jan. 24.

Monday's earthquake and its aftershocks had nothing to do with Mount Redoubt, Alaska's most active volcano with a series of explosions earlier this year. Dave Schneider, a geophysist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, said the volcano's seismic instruments more than 100 miles from the epicenter picked up the temblors, which he enjoyed from his Anchorage office.

"I thought it was kind of fun, but I'm like that," he said.



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