Tougher build­ing codes pre­vent cat­a­strophic loss

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - NATION - Rachel D’Oro and Mark Thiessen are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers. By Rachel D’Oro and Mark Thiessen

AN­CHOR­AGE, Alaska — The mag­ni­tude 7.0 earth­quake that rat­tled Alaska’s largest city cracked roads and col­lapsed high­way ramps, but there were no re­ports of wide­spread cat­a­strophic dam­age or col­lapsed build­ings.

There’s a good rea­son for that.

A dev­as­tat­ing 1964 Alaska earth­quake — at mag­ni­tude 9.2, the most pow­er­ful on record in the United States — led to stricter build­ing codes that helped struc­tures with­stand the shift­ing earth Fri­day.

“Con­grat­u­la­tions to the peo­ple of Alaska for be­ing re­ally pre­pared for this earth­quake,” U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey Geo­physi­cist Paul Caruso said Satur­day. “Be­cause a mag­ni­tude 7.0 in a city like that, you know, it could have been sig­nif­i­cantly worse.”

Gov. Bill Walker said some­times peo­ple, in­clud­ing him­self, grouse about strin­gent build­ing codes. But he’s “re­ally glad” they were in place as he only had mi­nor wa­ter dam­age at his home. “Build­ing codes mean some­thing,” he said.

The quake was cen­tered about 7 miles north of An­chor­age, which has a pop­u­la­tion of about 300,000. A 5.7 af­ter­shock ar­rived within min­utes, fol­lowed by a se­ries of smaller quakes.

The two big back-to­back quakes knocked items off shelves, dis­rupted power, broke store win­dows and briefly trig­gered a tsunami warn­ing for is­lands and coastal ar­eas south of the city. Walker is­sued a dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tion, and Pres­i­dent Trump de­clared an emer­gency, al­low­ing the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency to co­or­di­nate dis­as­ter re­lief.

There were no re­ports of deaths or se­ri­ous in­juries.

Still, more than 500 af­ter­shocks con­tin­ued to fray nerves, with peo­ple wor­ry­ing about be­ing caught in more mas­sive shak­ers.

“They’re dis­turb­ing, and I’m not putting any­thing away that could fall un­til they calm down,” said Ran­dall Ca­vanaugh, an An­chor­age at­tor­ney.

Marc Lester / An­chor­age Daily News

An aerial photo shows road dam­age near the town of Wasilla af­ter back-to-back quakes mea­sur­ing mag­ni­tude 7.0 and 5.7 struck the re­gion Fri­day.

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