Undersea earthquake sends Alaskans fleeing
A powerful undersea earthquake sent Alaskans fumbling for suitcases and racing to evacuation centers in the middle of the night after a cellphone alert warned a tsunami could hit communities along the state’s southern coast and parts of British Columbia.
The monster waves never materialized, but people who fled endured hours of tense waiting at shelters before they were cleared to return home.
“This was a win as far as I could tell,” said Marjie Veeder, clerk for the city of Unalaska, which is home to the international fishing port of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands. “We got advance warning and were so thankful for that.”
The magnitude 7.9 quake in the Gulf of Alaska triggered the jarring alert that roused people shortly after midnight Tuesday. Fleeing motorists clogged some highways in their rush to higher ground. Many took refuge at schools or other shelters.
Even for Alaskans accustomed to tsunami threats and tsunami drills, the phone message was alarming. It read: “Emergency Alert. Tsunami danger on the coast. Go to high ground or move inland. Listen to local news.”