Powerful earthquake jolts much of Alaska

Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2002

PALMER - A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 rocked parts of Southcentral and Interior Alaska early today, experts at the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said.

Major damage is unlikely from the quake, which occurred at 3:27 a.m. Alaska time about 85 miles south of Fairbanks and 170 miles northeast of Anchorage, but it jarred residents in both cities and as far as 350 miles away, seismologist Bruce Turner said.

"It's a pretty rural area," Turner said.

The most likely damage is broken glass and masonry, he said.

Outside Cantwell, a hamlet about 36 miles from the epicenter, the quake roused owners and residents of the Backwoods Lodge.

No one was hurt and damage appeared to be limited to "some things falling off of the shelves," co-owner Kathie White said. "Just a good shaker."

In Healy, the next town north of the park, Grandview Bed and Breakfast co-owner Shelly Acteson said the quake knocked just about everything off her walls and shelves and was frighteningly loud.

"Usually they kind of roll, you can kind of hear them coming," she said. "This one sounded like it was kind of mad - boom, boom, boom."

Phone lines to the earthquake observatory were jammed with callers asking about the quake, which occurred in a well-documented and active fault about 25 miles beneath the surface, Turner said.

The quake was too far from water to generate a tsunami, or seismic sea wave.

The magnitude of an earthquake reflects an analysis of seismic waves and the amount of earth slippage over the area of the fault. An earthquake of 6 can cause severe damage and a magnitude 7 quake is considered major and capable of widespread, heavy damage.

The "Good Friday" earthquake in Alaska that left 131 people dead in 1964 was measured at 8.5 on the now-abandoned Richter scale and was centered in Prince William Sound near Anchorage. By the current measurement it was 9.2.

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