On Friday, November 30, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit Anchorage, Alaska shocking many individuals and causing panic for them and their families. The shaking started with a sharp jolt and continued for one minute. The earthquake happened around 8:30 am, and although no deaths were reported, some individuals are being treated for lacerations due to broken glass. Since this natural disaster, Alaska has encountered up to 1,400 anti shocks or smaller earthquakes.
The Alaskan Governor has issued a declaration of disaster while many others are sharing their videos and photos of the experience to social media. And although the total amount of damage isn’t yet clear, according to many reports, the earthquake tore apart roads, ruined stores, and led students to have to evacuate their schools. One student named Josh Bierma uploaded a photo to his Twitter account along with the caption The earthquake straight cracked my school in half. Vine Road, just outside of Anchorage, was extremely demolished along with many others. Even Anchorage Airport was affected due to flooding. Many videos have been uploaded of items flying off of shelves in local grocery stores and Starbucks Coffee.
Many photos that have been posted are what geologists refer to as slope failure. Slope failure is when portions of solid hills cave in, or are let loose due to gravity. It basically causes the ground to rip in half, which results in whatever may be on top of the ground, for example a building or road, to crumble along with it. Slopes like these aren’t necessarily caused by earthquakes, rain or other harsh weather may also result in them, but an earthquake speeds up the process or can create new failures that wouldn’t originally have happened.The location of the earthquake was a depth of 25 miles beneath the earth’s surface, raising a threshold for what is felt at the surface.
Typically, Alaska reports an average of 40,000 quakes every year. And even though the most recent 7.0 caused no deaths and minimal injuries, U.S. federal officials chose to declare it a public health emergency. This declaration was made by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to make sure Medicaid funds will continue to be issued to those affected even with the temporary closure of these offices. They are also providing federal mental health assistance for those anxious about the earthquake. A hotline opened at 8am on Tuesday, December 4 for anyone who needs help rebuilding after this disaster.
Despite the extremely damaged roads and freezing temperatures, roads are being repaired rapidly. Just four days after the incident, a freeway ramp at International Airport Road is already being opened up to some traffic. Many of the collapsed roads cracked just as a car was driving over. This caused the car to drop along with the road, frightening the driver, and leaving their car stuck on the piece of sunken road. They were forced to abandon their car until emergency officials could retrieve it at a later time.
Two days after the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, Alaska is still in shock and still shaking. Many aftershocks have been reported, with at least 1,400 a 1.0 magnitude. Aftershocks will be less frequent with time but there is an 88 percent chance of a magnitude of 5.0 or even higher. Having an aftershock that is stronger than the original is very unlikely, however there is a possibility of an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 or higher before December 8, although the chances are only 3 percent.
Although some structures experienced damage, others didn’t. In places where roads cross over wetlands, shaking liquefies the soil underneath, thus causing failure. Different soils underneath may cause a different reaction to the structures when an earthquake hits. With softer soil causing a collapse, firm soil can hold place better keeping the building upright and protecting it. The earthquake also needs to last long enough to liquify the soil, so in dryer climates, destruction was not as typical.
This earthquake continues to be an issue and heartache for families trying to rebuild so close to the holidays. Luckily no one lost their lives due to this natural disaster and the help everyone needs is the help they are going to recieve.