Update 3:30 a.m.:
The city of Homer has called off its evacuation. Residents can return to their homes on low ground. The tsunami advisory is still in effect.
The National Weather Service at 3:12 a.m. downgraded the tsunami warning for coastal Alaska to an advisory.
“Tsunami advisories mean that a tsunami capable of producing strong currents or waves dangerous to persons in or very near the water is expected or is already occurring,” according to the announcement. “Areas in the advisory should not expect widespread inundation.”
An 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Alaska at 12:31 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23.The steady roller shook the lower Kenai Peninsula for at least a minute, causing walls to creak and objects to fall off shelves, but causing no reported major damage.
The quake hit about 175 miles southeast of Kodiak at a depth of 12.5 miles. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration downgraded the tremblor to a 7.9 magnitude after it was originally reported to be an 8.2 magnitude quake.
The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning for all of coastal Alaska and advised residents to evacuate to safer ground. The National Weather Service has estimated that a tsunami would start in Homer around 2:50 a.m. Tuesday.
Numerous vehicles were headed up West Hill Road and East Hill Road early Tuesday morning in search of higher ground.
Homer Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Painter confirmed around 1:40 a.m. that the city has opened Homer High School as a shelter in case people need it. There were about 40 people and a few animals assembled inside the school there by around 2:30 a.m. Another 50 vehicles were parked in the lot, including Public Works trucks and equipment.
Sitting in the high school commons with her dog Poppy, Anna Dale said the quake woke her up at her Beluga Lake neighborhood home off Ocean Drive.
“It felt like a big truck was driving by,” she said. “It rolled forever.”
Dale said her boss called her and told her to head to higher ground.
Jan Knutson was at her Lupine Court home below East End Road and settling in for the night when the quake hit. Her husband, artist Ed Hutchinson, had been finishing up some paintings for a show he’s doing next month.
“It felt like it was very, very, very long. The whole house shook,” she said. “Nothing fell off; drawers flew open.”
Natalia Ruppert, a seismologist with the Alaska Earthquake Center, called the tremblor unusual.
“We don’t see this type of event very often,” she said. “… It is an unusual event for its size and also for its location.”
Earthquakes off the coast of Kodiak are not uncommon, but they don’t usually occur so far offshore, she said. There were quakes similar in nature in 1987 and 1988, but they happened farther north, closer to Prince William Sound, she said.
The earthquake was also quite shallow, Ruppert said.
“The fault moved horizontally,” she said. “There was very little vertical motion.”