Major earthquake hits near Anchorage, Alaska, briefly triggering tsunami warning

A 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Alaska on Friday, the United States Geological Survey said, prompting authorities to declare a tsunami warning, which was later canceled.

The quake hit about eight miles north of Anchorage at 8:30 a.m. local time (12:30 p.m. ET). Videos posted to social media showed students taking shelter under desks and grocery store items knocked off shelves.

 
 

Gov. Bill Walker said he issued a declaration of disaster after the “major earthquake” and is in communication with the White House.

 

“There is major infrastructure damage across Anchorage,” according to a statement from the Anchorage Police Department. “Many homes and buildings are damaged. Many roads and bridges are closed. Stay off the roads if you don’t need to drive. Seek a safe shelter. Check on your surroundings and loved ones.”

The United States Geological Survey estimates that there is a low probability of fatalities, since most people in the region live in structures that can withstand an earthquake.

 

Christopher Helsel, 41, was at work on the east side of Anchorage, the most populous city in Alaska, when the earthquake hit. Desks shook from side to side and computer monitors fell over, Helsel said. But his office in the Muldoon area of Anchorage did not lose power. Still, the experience was nerve-wracking, he said.

“I have been here almost 10 years and have never felt an earthquake as strong as I did today,” said Helsel, the brother of an NBCNews.com reporter.

Lisa Demer was also at work, on the sixth floor of the Wells Fargo Building in midtown Anchorage, when the earthquake hit. Her office building had to rely on emergency power afterward, so the building was evacuated.

 

“It was violent,” Demer, a 23-year Alaska resident, said in a phone call with NBC News from her home in the Spenard neighborhood on the west side of Anchorage, near the airport. “I’ve felt a lot of earthquakes. Some, you stop and freeze in place. This one, there was no doubt that it was gigantic and scary.”

 

The earthquake’s aftershocks, she said, were frightening — and frequent; she said she felt about a dozen.

Glenn Highway — a high priority road — was closed north of Eagle River because of damage, state transportation officials said. An onramp to the interchange of International Airport Road and Minnesota Boulevard — which is less than a mile from where Demer lives — collapsed.

With no significant damage to her home, Demer told NBC News she hoped to spend the rest of the day helping others.

“I still have to check my crawl space. And then I’m going to see if there is something I can do,” she said. “I want to see if there’s needs that I can help with in any way.”

 

More than 32,000 power outages were reported as of 1:30 p.m (5:30 p.m. ET), local energy companies said.

 

About two hours earlier, the FAA had announced a ground stop for flights into Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in response to the earthquake. The airport said some of its terminals sustained cosmetic damage. Water mains were ruptured and all elevators and escalators are out of service, the airport said, but power was working and backup generators are on standby.

By 11:45 a.m., some departures were resuming at Stevens Airport, but the groundstop remained in effect, the FAA said.

The Anchorage School District posted a message to parents on its official Twitter account. “We hope that everyone is safe after the earthquake. We are assessing building safety and damages now,” the school district wrote. “We will update the community as new information comes in. In the meantime, parents and guardians, when you feel it is safe to do so, please pick your children up from school.”

 

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump, who is in Argentina for the G-20 Summit, has been briefed on the earthquake and is monitoring damage reports.

“We are praying for the safety of all Alaskans,” she said.

Former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin tweeted, “Our family is intact – house is not … I imagine that’s the case for many, many others. So thankful to be safe; praying for our state following the earthquake.”

Palin also shared a video on her official Facebook page of broken dishes, opened drawers and furniture strewn about in her parents’ home in Wasilla, north of Anchorage.

 

“My parent’s home in Wasilla is usually in tip top shape,” Palin said. “Here it is this morning following the earthquake. The video doesn’t begin to show the scope.”

This article originally appeared on NBC