Anchorage Counts Its Blessings After Dodging a Significant Catastrophe

Soil liquefaction from Friday's earthquake caused a highway offramp near Anchorage International Airport to collapse.

Soil liquefaction from Friday's earthquake caused a highway offramp near Anchorage International Airport to collapse. Mike Dinneen / AP Photo

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

A culture of preparedness and good fortune helped Alaska’s largest city avoid a major quake disaster.

Anchorage and much of south-central Alaska was spared a major disaster with Friday’s 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which despite delivering the most severe shaking to the state’s largest city since the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake, and its aftershocks did relatively minor damage.

Although the strong shaking caused some damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure, most of Anchorage and the surrounding area saw mostly cosmetic damage. Instances of greater damage were limited.

"I think the fact we went through something this significant with this minimal amount of damage says we're a very well-prepared community, that our building codes and our building professionals have done a terrific job making sure that what we have here is appropriate for the place we live," Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said during a press conference on Friday.

No fatalities were reported and there were only a few injuries.

In Anchorage, only two houses saw significantly damage but did not collapse, city officials said. A third caught fire.

Infrastructure in and around Anchorage was mostly in good shape following the quake, though some roads and highways suffered damage due to soil liquefaction or rock slides.

“We aren’t seeing any significant bridge damage,” City Manager Bill Falsey said during a press conference on Saturday, though local utilities were responding to gas and water pipeline ruptures, which in some cases drew down water in reservoirs.    

“The water delivery system is functioning and we believe it will continue to function,” Falsey said. A boil-water advisory was in place for Anchorage only out of an abundance of caution due to limited risk of intrusion of bacteria into fractured water mains.  

Most importantly, the supply chain from the Lower 48 that all Alaskans rely on has not been significantly disrupted. Anchorage International Airport saw minimal damage to its facilities and inspections at the Port of Anchorage showed it also turned out well, Falsey said.

“The port seems to be in very good shape,” Falsey said. “And a further reminder: There is no need to make a run to any grocery store to start stocking or hoarding materials,” including fuel. “The usual supply chain is a go. We should be fine in that regard.”  

“We are returning to normal, which is a good thing,” Berkowitz said during a press conference on Saturday. “We know we have to be prepared because we’re never impervious to earthquakes or the weather.”

As the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday, the situation could have been far different had Friday’s earthquake and aftershocks struck directly under Anchorage instead of just a few miles to the north in a lightly populated area of the neighboring Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

The worst shaking from Friday's earthquake was just to the north and west of Anchorage. (Image via USGS)

The quake’s relatively deep epicenter—25 miles down—limited the severity of the shaking at the surface. Heidi Tremayne, director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, told the L.A. Times that it helped that Anchorage, which was founded in 1914, is a newer city with relatively few older buildings. Most of the vulnerable structures in Anchorage were destroyed in the 1964 9.2 magnitude quake, which devastated much of south-central Alaska. If Friday's quake had been shallower and under the city, Anchorage would have likely seen far greater damage.

PREVIOUSLY on Route Fifty:

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

NEXT STORY: Lyft’s New Investment Will Expand NYC’s Citi Bike Service Area in a Big Way

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.