Tougher building codes prevent catastrophic loss
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.
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.