earthquake presser

Anchorage Fire Department Chief Jodie Hettrick, center, speaks while Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, left and Municipal Manager Bill Falsey look on. (Photo by Matt Hickman)

At 8:28 a.m. Friday, a 7.0 earthquake tore through Anchorage and the surrounding area, causing massive damage to roads, as many as four structural fires and a whole lot of panic and national and international media attention.

Suffice it to say, Southcentral Alaska dodged a bullet. The damage from such a quake could have been much worse.

“The extent of the damage has been relatively small given the extent of the earthquake,” said Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowtiz at a press conference at the emergency operating station on E Street and 13th Ave. Friday evening. “We have no reports of fatalities and the infrastructure damage has been mitigated by the way we build things and the preparation we put it.... We appreciate the support of the Alaska Delegation… as we confront what could have been a real problem.”

Anchorage Municipal Manager Bill Falsey said there has been little demand for sheltering services. The Egan Center remains open as a ‘warming center’

“At this point, we have not seen an overwhelming need for shelter,” Falsey said, adding that at last count a dozen to 25 people continue to seek shelter. “We had warming centers at the Egan Center and the McDonald Center, but we are closing McDonald. As we pivot through the initial assessment, we are making sure everyone has a warm place to go.”

Fire Chief Jodie Hettrick said her department receives 4 structural fire calls Friday morning and that 2 structures had collapsed with no reports of bodily harm.

She advised vigilance through the coming days.

“As Alaskans we know that after a big shake there are aftershocks and we cannot predict how long those will last. There are occasions when aftershocks are (as strong as) the initial quakes can go on for a week, maybe longer. Hopefully we avoid that but we ask people to be vigilant,” Hettrick said. “Get in your doorways, get under a piece of furniture that can protect you against collapse — not a TV tray. This is a good time to practice earthquake drills.”

The biggest casualty of the Friday quake continues to be roads and highway infrastructure. The collapsed exit ramp to International Airport Road has been the chief concern, and damage to the overpass in Eagle River, that forced traffic to be diverted through the town of Eagle River, being the chief among them in the municipality.

APD Chief Justin Doll said traffic on the Glenn Friday night was being diverted out of Anchorage only as officials gauge the situation over the weekend.

“In Anchorage the evening rush hour is pretty heavy going out to the Valley,” Doll said. “After that, we’ll be back to one lane inbound, two lanes outbound and that will continue the rest of the night as we continue to evaluate.”

Doll said there was believed to be damage to overpasses in Eagle River, which they will continue to evaluate.

Earlier Friday, the Seward Highway was closed beginning at McHugh Peak due to rockslides. Doll said that situation has sense been remedied.

“The Glenn had significant damages to bridges and on-ramps, so the highway is open and shutting down inbound to the municipality for some period,” Doll said. “The rockslides between Indian and Beluga headed out toward Girdwood — those have been cleared.”

Falsey said that though there appears to be some damage to the port of Anchorage, there isn’t any expected threat to the supply of food and other necessities.

“We’re keeping an eye on this, but at this point, no,” Falsey said. “The state should not be experiencing any supply line disruptions. There has been some interest at grocery stores and their supply of bottled water… we don’t expect a run on core supplies, but we will keep an eye on it.”

Despite the overall successes, a number of residences remain without power, Falsey said. As of 4 p.m., approximately 1,000 residences downtown were without power due to three substations that lost power. He added that earlier in the day, Chugach had reported 6,000 outages that have been 'largely mitigated.'

He said that at one point, ML&P had reported more than 46,000 outages.

Falsey said water and sewer systems continue to function, despite responding to 28 mainline water breaks and 70 requests to cut off service to prevent flooding.

Falsey said that out of 'an abundance of caution' residents are encouraged to boil their water before drinking.

Hettrick shared end-of-day stats that surmised the overall good news of the day.

"By 3:30 p.m. AFD had 273 responses, 56 of those were EMS and we don't have any significant injuries caused by the earthquake," she said. "We had 49 gas leaks and eight fires, only four working fires and no fatalities or injuries."



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