Earthquake update: Majority of evacuees allowed to return home

Homes in the Lilac Lane area near Kenai were evacuated following the quake and a resulting gas leak. Most were allowed to return Sunday night. Dave Brooks / KTUU
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Editor's Note: This article was originally published on January 24, 2016.

UPDATE 7:00 a.m., Monday, January 25, 2016

The Red Cross tells Channel 2's Samantha Angaiak that 7 people stayed in the shelter overnight. Enstar allowed the majority of residents to return to their homes as of 11 p.m. last night. They're monitoring residual gas.

UPDATE 5:00 p.m.:

At least 20 people are taking shelter at the National Guard Armory in Kenai after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake triggered a gas leak and caused four houses to catch fire early this mornng, according to Kenai Fire Chief Jeff Tucker.

Two houses exploded in flames. The other two caught fire as flames spread, said Battalion Chief Tony Prior.

ENSTAR Natural Gas Co. is still working to cap any gas leaks and make repairs.

Kenai-area stores are donating goods to help those taking shelter at the armory. The Red Cross is at the shelter assisting evacuees.

Many Anchorage residents were jolted awake at 1:30 a.m. by the strong quake, centered 162 miles southwest of Alaska's population center. But the city emerged relatively unscathed.

Still, Anchorage School District (ASD) is in the process of checking every school for damage.

Bruce Shelley with ASD maintenance says 12 teams of two to three people are combing the district looking for any structural damage.

"We have about 8,000 square feet of space in 100 facilities throughout the district," Shelley said

The worst damage they have seen is in a library shared by West High School and Romig Middle School.

"The big thing that people need to know, and take away from this is that we take this seriously," said Shelley. "We want to have a safe start to schools on Monday morning.”

Shelley had no estimate on the cost of damage. The focus right now is making sure every school has been checked, he said.

UPDATE 4 p.m.:

Kenai police say residents of Cook Inlet View Drive and Wells Way are again being held back from their homes due to elevated levels of natural gas at the east end of Lilac Lane.

Four homes on Lilac Lane burned down today after a 7.1 earthquake struck South Central Alaska. The quake caused a gas leak on Lilac Lane, police and firefighters said. No injuries were reported.

Kenai's police chief said residents of some homes in the affected subdivision were told they could return home at 1:30 p.m. But the situation has since changed. No one who lives on Cook Inlet View Drive, Wells Way, or Lilac Drive is being allowed to return to their homes as of 3:20 p.m.

ENSTAR National Gas Co. remains on scene to resolve the gas concerns. Kenai's National Guard Armory is available as a shelter for those evacuees displaced by the earthquake. Residents should call Kenai Police at 283-7879 for updates.

UPDATE 3:15 p.m.:

Residents of some houses in Kenai evacuated earlier today due an earthquake-related gas leak were allowed to return home as of 1:30 p.m., according to Kenai’s police chief.

ENSTAR Natural Gas Co. has turned gas back on except to homes on Lilac Lane where four houses were burned, said Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl. The company is continuing to search for the origin of the gas leak, make fixes, and ensure there are no further leaks.

It was earlier reported that some 20 homes were evacuated but the number was actually higher, Sandahl said. It's more like 30, he said. No injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, Anchorage police, fire, and utility workers responded to dozens of calls for service around the city, soon after the earthquake struck.

Most calls to Anchorage Fire were for alarms and potential gas leaks, according to the mayor’s office. Municipal Light and Power responded to minor, isolated power outages in downtown Anchorage, according to a statement from Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. In the statement, Berkowitz also thanked first responders, emergency personnel, and utility workers for their response.

“It’s reassuring that our community can rise to the challenge and respond, no matter what happens,” Berkowitz said.

The Anchorage School District reported minimal damage to Anchorage public schools. A photo on the district's Facebook page showed some debris on the floor of Romig Middle School library.

Municipal officials inspected various facilities this morning and found no initial evidence of damage, including at the Port of Anchorage.

“We got lucky,” said Port director Steve Ribuffo. “A seismic event like this highlights how vulnerable we are, since most of Alaska’s food and fuel crosses our docks. We are going to do further inspections, as tides and weather allow.”

For information on emergency response, visit Anchorage Office of Emergency Management or to find out about current conditions call the Anchorage Conditions Line at 343-4701.

UPDATE 1:00 p.m.

The Red Cross has a team of staff and volunteers heading to the Kenai Peninsula to help families who evacuated their homes early today after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake.

The Red Cross is expecting to assist anywhere from 30 to 60 people, said Beth Bennett, regional communications director.

Some people are awaiting assistance at Kenai’s National Guard Armory, which is serving as an emergency shelter for anyone displaced by the earthquake.

Four single-family homes were destroyed by the earthquake after a gas leak, said Kenai Fire Department Battalion Chief Tony Prior.

No one was injured.

A total of 20 other homes have been evacuated as ENSTAR National Gas Co. evaluates the origin of the gas leak, makes repairs, and ensures that no further gas is leaking.

The Red Cross team expects to arrive in Kenai by mid-afternoon, said Bennett.

UPDATE 11:40 a.m.:

Fires that engulfed four single-family homes in Kenai after a major earthquake early Sunday have been extinguished, firefighters said.

Kenai Fire Department Battalion Chief Tony Prior described it as "very amazing" that no one was injured.

Fires at the last two houses were put out by about 8:30 a.m. this morning, Prior said.

ENSTAR Natural Gas Co. is actively investigating whether any gas is leaking in the immediate area of the fires and beyond.

"They're probing the ground with heavy equipment," said Prior.

The first fire was reported at a home on Lilac Lane shortly after the earthquake at around 2:10 a.m., according to Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl. Emergency responders were on scene investigating the smell of gas when an explosion occurred at another home on Lilac just a few hours later.

"A major explosion" occurred at the second home, said Prior. The third and fourth houses caught fire but did not explode.

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck South Central Alaska at 1:30 a.m. on Sunday.

"I am relieved that there was not more damage given the severity of the quake. We have set up shelter for those in need and stand ready to assist in whatever way we can," said Gov. Bill Walker. "As a survivor of the 1964 Good Friday earthquake, I urge all Alaskans to have a response plan prepared for when a major natural disaster occurs. I thank all the emergency personnel and volunteers for their rapid response to last night's events.

Alaskans with immediate life and safety concerns should call 911,Walker said in a written statement. Other earthquake-related concerns can be directed to local emergency managers or the State Emergency Operations Center at 907-428-7100. More information is available at ready.alaska.gov.

UPDATE 10 a.m.:

Firefighters have managed to control a blaze that erupted at a Kenai home several hours after the earthquake Sunday morning, according to a Facebook post by the Kenai Fire Department.

The first fire was reported at a home on Lilac Lane shortly after the earthquake at around 2:10 a.m., according to Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl. Emergency responders were still on scene investigating the smell of gas when an explosion occurred at another home on Lilac just a few hours later.

Sandahl said the explosion occurred sometime between 5 am and 6 am and has caused severe damage to the home. No serious injuries have been reported, Sandahl said.

Emergency responders evacuated about 30 residences on Lilac Lane and Cook Inlet Drive while working to isolate gas leaks in the neighborhood. About 20 people are using emergency shelter at the Kenai National Guard Armory, Sandahl said.

UPDATE 8 a.m.:

The Kenai Fire Department says it is battling three structure fires on Lilac Lane this morning, an apparent escalation from the initial single fire.

"Earlier this morning a second home exploded on Lilac Lane as utility crews continue to isolate the gas leaks," the department posted to its official Facebook page at about 8:10 a.m.

ORIGINAL STORY:

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked Southcentral Alaska early Sunday, striking at 1:30 a.m. in Pedro Bay, according the U.S. Geological Survey.The Alaska Earthquake Center reported the magnitude as 6.8.

The quake -- centered about 162 miles southwest of Anchorage -- left thousands of people without power overnight. As many as 22 Kenai-area homes were evacuated following an apparent gas leak, said Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl.

Police in Anchorage and Kenai report no known injuries or major damage.

The Kenai gas leak was discovered on Lilac Lane following a fire that was quickly extinguished, Sandahl said. "There was a strong smell of gas in that subdivision. And then the fire department and police department began evacuating the neighborhood."

Earthquake rips K-Beach Road

An armory is being used as a temporary shelter for about 20 people, he said. In addition to Lilac Lane, a few nearby homes were evacuated on Cook Inlet View Drive.

Kenai police said residents can call the shelter at 395-4901 or call the police department at 283-7879 to check on the status of the leaks. Enstar has joined firefighters at the scene, working to locate and contain the ruptures.

The shaker ripped a section of Kalifornsky Beach (K-Beach) Road at Mile 1, making the road impassable, said Brad Nelson, a health and safety officer with Central Emergency Services. The road connects Kasilof and Soldotna. The damage is at the Kasilof end, he said.

The Alaska Earthquake Center recorded some 30 aftershocks, including a magnitude 4.3 quake that hit at 3:37 a.m.

"Everything was flying off the shelves," said Bob Candopolous of Seward. "It was tough to get to the front door to get out of the house."

No tsunamis were expected as a result of the quake.

Was your home damaged? Let us know. Send us an email at news@ktuu.com

POWER OUTAGES:

Matanuska Electric Association

The Valley power utility reported about 4,900 customers without power as of 2:43 a.m. By 6:30 a.m., that number had dwindled to 139 outages.

Chugach Electric Association:

Chugach reported as many as 4,600 households and customers without power shortly after the quake. As of 6:30 a.m., about 120 outages remained.

Municipal Light & Power

ML&P initially reported an outage in Downtown Anchorage affecting 159 customers. Shortly before 6 a.m., the utility said a Fairview outage had ended.

"Crews are still responding to a handful of isolated outages caused by blown fuses from the earthquake," ML&P Tweeted.




 
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