Extreme Earthquake – Even by Alaskan Standards!

This will be an uncharacteristically brief entry into this blog as I still have a lot of correspondence to answer regarding yesterday’s powerful magnitude 7.0 earthquake.  But I wanted to let everyone know we came through the event in relatively good shape owing to the fact we were 100+ miles from the quake’s epicenter which was around 7 miles NW of JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson); the base is on the northern rim of the Anchorage area.  This is not to say we didn’t experience quite an event!  At 08:29 I was working at my desk when I felt the initial shudders within the earth that often presage a tremblor; I paused briefly as the dogs ran into the room and clustered about my chair.  I glanced at the clock and noted the intensity of the tremblor was still increasing as was the noise.  This continued for another 20+ seconds before tapering off.  I was actually gripping my desk to stabilize myself and considering getting under it.  I had heard lots of loud and unusual noises which I later learned were a couple of shelves collapsing and a number of pictures being knocked off the walls.

My damage was minimal and in this I was very lucky; the further south one heads down the Parks Highway (AK 3) the more severe the damage.  I spoke to a dear friend in Willow – around 30 miles to the south – perhaps an hour after the main seismic event; she, her husband and her cat were a bit frazzled but safe.  However, they have many cracked and broken windows and their power was out.  As of Saturday morning I believe this is still the case in much of Willow.  Being true Alaskans, they have two generators and thus are able to power their furnace, fridge, water pump and similar while awaiting the restoration of electricity.  I lost a couple of fragile personal items and when a shelf collapsed in a spare room which contains all my network associated gear my 2 TB NAS fell five feet to the floor.  As it was operational the impact has most likely trashed the mechanical HDDs.  The case impacted on a corner which ‘sprung’ the enclosure; I had to dissemble a portion to get everything back in place and then re-seated the two HDDs.  However, while the unit will power up I never get beyond the flashing ‘initializing’ LED and the system will not recognize the NAS.  I’ve pulled the two HDDs from the enclosure and will see if I can re-initialize them as standalone drives.

Even with these losses I count us very lucky!  The canines were really freaked out by the intensity and the duration of the main tremblor; the frequent aftershocks across the next ten hours didn’t help them regain their composure.  This isn’t surprising as one aftershock was a magnitude 4.2 while another was a magnitude 5.8; either of these by themselves would’ve been noticed up here.  I did notice my GSD (Qanuk) acting a bit flaky maybe a half hour before the main tremor; he was pacing and trying to get really close to me.  While the latter isn’t all that unusual the former was different enough to grab my attention.  None of the dogs liked the experience but Delilah, my newly adopted ‘Russian Bear Dog’ – more properly known as a ‘Caucasian Shepherd Dog’ – did shrug off the entire experience within a few minutes and was snoring again maybe fifteen minutes after the main quake.  She did wake up for a couple of the aftershocks but only yawned, shifted her position a bit and went back to sleep.

Please keep your hopes and prayers focused on the folks in the Anchorage bowl and the western Matanuska Valley and the southern Susitna Valley as they were hammered.  Anchorage is again accessible by road but there is a lot of earthquake damage and it will take months and months to even begin to get repairs underway.  Given it is late fall and snow is on the ground I don’t know how many of the destroyed sections of road can be repaired; perhaps they will only do temporary repairs until spring..?  Thanks for everyone’s concerns!

113018 Earthquake Damage

Aftermath of magnitude 7.0 earthquake on 11/30/18; this is the small room where I keep most of my network related hardware


Rock & Roll – Mother Nature’s Style

At 09:51 AKDT this (September 25th) morning a magnitude 6.24 earthquake occurred centered 60 miles WSW of Talkeetna at a depth of 62 miles; at that time I just happened to be in a warehouse in Palmer picking out the donated food I would be hauling back to Talkeetna. I was standing on the concrete loading dock when all the overhead doors that were down began to tremble as if being buffeted by a heavy wind. My fellow volunteers and members of the local food banks looked around in stunned silence; for the first 10 seconds no one knew what was happening but very quickly the more experienced folks said; “Earthquake”. About that same time a couple of the warehouse employees raced out doors and headed into the parking lot.

About that same time I felt the heavy concrete floor began to rise and fall in a sine wave motion indicative of the event’s ‘S’ waves; by this time I was already moving to the closest open overhead door so I could stand in the doorway until the tremblor ceased. The entire event last a bit more than 30 seconds and was the most powerful earthquake I’ve yet to experience. In looking over the thickness of that loading dock floor it still boggles my mind that it can actually float and rise and fall in periodicity with the waves from the seismic event. It was a bit disconcerting to watch the faces of the folks with more than 20 years of living in Alaska; to a person there was some fear borne of the concern that this one might be ‘a big one’. From what I can determine this generally means anything at or above a magnitude 7.0 so in this case we were quite a bit short of that threshold. Still and all it was yet another amazing display of Nature’s power.

When I arrived home after dropping off my food at the Pantry I discovered a number of items had been shifted around but no real damage. The event did cause the dual monitor set up on my main system to get knocked askew – no surprise as they are bolted to the wall – and pushed around some items on the desk but that was about the extent of any effects. The large CO2 tank I have in the utility room I use to carbonate a multitude of beverages was still standing just fine but then it is chained to the wall studs just in case something like this takes place. The dogs didn’t seem to be any worse for wear; as I wasn’t at home I didn’t have a chance to see if they showed any response before or during the event. Last November’s magnitude 5.4 just awoke Anana from a sound sleep but Qanuk was sleeping upstairs and while he did come running down to the main room I think that was from the effects of the event rather than some precognition.

Alaska is the most seismically active of the 50 states and in just my thirteen months of living up here I’ve now experienced two events in excess of magnitude 5.3 and a number of smaller tremblors. Being a ‘flat lander’ from Michigan I’d experienced just a couple of very minor earthquakes growing up although while living around 70 miles ENE of Saint Louis I did awaken to a magnitude 4.6 event early one morning. This was the product of the notorious New Madrid fault line which uncorked a real doozey back in the early 1800’s – estimated to have been magnitude 7.1 to 8.0 – which caused the Mississippi River to reverse its flow for a few days. I’d experienced a number of relatively small events in the California Bay Area with most being between magnitude 4.0 and 5.0. My time in the Bay Area did teach me to seek out doorways in the event of a quake and stay away from windows. I guess the training did sink in as once I realized it was indeed an earthquake I immediately looked for a door way.

Earthquakes are a part of life in Alaska and as such most folks just endure them and get on with life. I must admit to being fascinated when I can feel the earth shifting beneath my feet and experience other effects common to fairly powerful seismic events. But I’ve also seen imagery of the damage and destruction even a magnitude 6.4 earthquake can inflict so I am aware of the potential for serious issues from such occurrences. Being ready by knowing safety rules and taking the necessary precautions at home are really about all one can do in preparation for such events. I still must admit I am fascinated by the geology and physics involved in such events and especially of the incredible power of our Mother Earth!

Earthquakes & Snow…

Yep, its been a really interesting previous 24 hours in the finest Alaskan tradition.  I found it to be a great stimulus especially as with all the mild, sunny conditions and lack of any real weather extremes across the past few months things were becoming rather ‘staid’.  The fun started early Tuesday morning with light snow; the snow continued across Tuesday, Tuesday night and right along into Wednesday.  When it finally tapered off around 16:30 AKST here at Mile 7.1 of the Spur I measured a total accumulation of 14.8″ which makes this event the largest snowfall this winter.  Of course, given the wimpy winter to date it really didn’t take much to make headlines with respect to snowfall.  As of 07:00 Wednesday morning I measured 12.5″ of snow with a SWE of just 0.57″ water so the snow is indeed typically light and fluffy.  NWS blew their forecast as even at noon on Tuesday they were calling for maybe an inch of snow for the entire day; by that time I was seeing 3.5″ and the snow was continuing.  This was another ‘windless’ storm so all the trees, bushes and exterior surfaces have a thick coating of fluffy white snow:

My back yard around 11:00 AKST on March 5, 2014

My back yard around 11:00 AKST on March 5, 2014

With this latest visit by winter we once again have in excess of two feet of snow pack although the bottom 11″ is mainly the icy remains of the earlier snow pack that melted in the record-setting warm January and was lashed by rain and freezing rain during that same month.  Even with this snow event we are well below normal snow fall for the winter of 2013-2014 but everyone is most pleased to see the snow once again.  Anana and Qanuk were a bit surprised by the snow depth when I let them outside this morning; the had largely tamped down the previous snow and ice and therefore had established some definite paths in the back yard.  To suddenly find the snow up to their bellies once again was a shock but they quickly took advantage of the powder and commenced playing tag.  I think they were just pleased to see more snow but then so was the entire local population.

Yesterday evening I had settled into my rocking chair with my Kindle Fire HD reading a great book (“The Wolf In The Parlor”) while listening to some soft fusion jazz; from time to time I glanced up to watch the snow continuing to fall.  Right about 18:13 there was a very loud ‘BOOM!‘ which caused everything to rattle followed by a second ‘BOOM!‘ a few seconds later.  Before the second one my German Shepherd (Qanuk) was running down the stairs from the upper floor; he ended up cowering alongside my chair.  Even Anana, my Alaskan Malamute who was sound asleep at the foot of the stairs, raised her head and looked around.  Understand that Anana is a very sound sleeper and rarely can be awakened by any noise unless it’s the sound of the refrigerator door being opened; for her to jerk awake confirmed my immediate impression that something very loud had just occurred.  My first thought was an explosion of some kind but then I wondered if a large piece of the accumulating snow had slipped off the roof.  I learned during the extremely warm January that snow/ice falling from the roof can create loud ‘Blam’s’ that do shake the house.  I looked out all the windows but saw only undisturbed snow so I pulled on my ‘deep snow’ boots and proceeded to walk the perimeter of the house.  Outside it was silent like usual and the snow on the ground was completely undisturbed.  I finally decided it must have been an earthquake albeit an unusual one.  I’ve experienced a number of earthquakes in the lower 48 but this one was unlike any earthquake I’d ever experienced as it made a definite noise while all the other’s I’d experienced previously did not; in fact they were silent – except for stuff rattling and maybe falling over – and I hadn’t felt the floor tremble or ‘ripple’ as I had during previous events.  I walked back inside and went on-line with UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks); sure enough a magnitude 4.4 earthquake was recorded at 18:13 AKST centered 27 miles SSE of Talkeetna at a depth of 22 miles.  I’ve experienced a few  earthquakes while working for The Clorox Company whose main office is located in the Bay area of California; generally no one even batted an eye unless it was at least a 5.5 or larger.  I also experienced a 4.8 quake generated from the New Madrid fault line which runs up the Mississippi River basin around St. Louis.  That was back in ’81 and I was living in Greenville (IL) which was 70 miles ENE or St. Louis; the event occurred in the wee hours of the morning.  I was sleeping on a water-bed and suddenly I awoke to hear stuff rattling and then felt ‘Magic Fingers’ in the water-bed.  While I’m hardly a veteran regarding earthquakes I’m no novice either; this is why I was quite surprised by yesterday evening’s event.  I did note that while KTNA gave extensive morning news coverage to the snow not a word was mentioned regarding the earthquake so I guess it wasn’t a big deal.  I knew Alaska is the most seismically active of the 50 states and I also knew the Palmer-Wasilla area gets regular quakes so I wasn’t surprised except by the noise.  I’ve never heard a ‘BOOM!‘ with a previous earthquake let alone two of them…

This afternoon I stopped by the KTNA studio after making the mail run into Talkeetna and spoke to a pair of folks who live around me; one didn’t notice the quake at all while the other definitely felt it and had the same recollection of the event as my own.  I learned that the earthquakes up here often produce loud sounds in conjunction with the seismic activity.  I also had it confirmed that a 4.4 is not a big deal; I guess they occur on an almost regular basis and most of the locals hardly notice them.  I was told that 60 miles to the south in the Palmer-Wasilla area it’s even more common and the events are often larger.  As stated earlier I knew Alaska was the most seismically active of the 50 states and even knew of the Denali fault line that runs right through this area but I was still surprised by the noise from the event and the fact that a 4.4 shook my house so ‘substantially’.  Across the day I continued to find small items that had been knocked around from the earth’s perturbations.  Once more I’m in awe of the amazing display of natural forces that just seems to be an everyday part of the Alaskan environment.  Things are just a bit different up here in so many ways; just as 12+ inches of snow doesn’t shut down the local schools a magnitude 4.4 tremblor is no big deal.  Heck, when the NWS did get their act together they issued a ‘Winter Weather Advisory’ for a snow event with the forecast total accumulation of 10″ to 20″ stating such an advisory meant only that travel might be ‘negatively impacted’.  No wonder I just love living up here..!!!