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Strong Earthquakes Rock Noatak Area

Published On: Apr 18 2014 03:06:15 PM AKDT   Updated On: Apr 18 2014 03:11:24 PM AKDT
Strong Earthquakes Rock Noatak Area

Courtesy Alaska Earthquake Information Center


A series of earthquakes rattled northwest Alaska about 40 miles northeast of Kotzebue Friday morning, beginning with a strong 5.6 magnitude earthquake at 10:44 a.m.

“It’s a very striking earthquake,” said state seismologist Michael West, the director of the Alaska Earthquake Center in Fairbanks. “I’m not aware of anything in the last 30 years in the area anywhere close in size.”

West says the initial quake was the one of the largest on record for the region, and was followed by a series of less-powerful quakes, including a 5.3 magnitude aftershock that struck just 12 minutes later.

“We’ve recorded at least 10 or so aftershocks in the last couple of hours; I’m quite sure there are many more that are a lot smaller,” West said.

The centers of the quakes were about 20 miles northeast of the 500-strong community of Noatak, with the Red Dog Mine also 20 miles away.

Staff at the Noatak school say it shook the whole building for nearly a minute. Ice fishermen on the Noatak River say it pushed water through their fishing hole and on top of the ice. Amy Mitchell, a health aide in training at the Noatak clinic, said the quake caused a commotion there.

“We have a VHF (radio) here and people were going on that,” Mitchell said. “Our other health aide and our supervisor were telling people to go under tables and under the doorframe -- interesting and scary for me.”

Despite rattling buildings, no damage or injuries have been reported. Alaska State Troopers say they’ve received no calls asking for help or reporting damage. No tsunamis are expected, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer.

According to West, there’s no evidence suggesting the quakes are a prelude to something bigger. Dozens of aftershocks continued through Friday, but West says the seismic activity should die down by next week.

“Our alarms have been going crazy all morning with each one of these sort of updating into our system, but they’ll die off into the coming days,” West said.
The Earthquake Information Center says the quake was felt as far away as Kotzebue, but just barely.