Tsunami Warning Center monitors threat after 7.7 magnitude quake

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PALMER (KTUU) The U.S. National Warning Center in Palmer is keeping a close eye on the far Western Aleutian Islands after Monday's 7.7 magnitude earthquake.

In the 24-hours since Monday's big event, about five aftershocks around magnitude 5.0, have hit off the coast of Attu.

Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, there are two watch standers examining seismic activity around Alaska and all over the world. And when a big earthquake hits, like the one Monday about 200 miles Northwest of Attu, they have about five minutes to determine whether it's a threat.

"They are the best in the world at what they do," said Mike Angove, Acting Director of the U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center. "You're hard pressed to find people that are able to combine a deep understanding of the seismic analysis and then be able to quickly transition from there into an understanding of the actual tsunami waves and how they're going to propagate."

But those jobs could be in jeopardy, back in May, President Trump announced proposed cuts which could impact the U.S. tsunami warning system. Although it's still uncertain what cuts will be made, a Department of Commerce statement Tuesday said the budget calls for a merger between the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii and the National Tsunami Warning Center in Alaska -- resulting in a 24-7 operation to ensure the safety of people living in coastal areas.

It's a potential merger that could slow response times, "If you weren't watching this round the clock, 24-hours, 7-days a week, there's no way you would be able to do the alerts in time to do anything meaningful given the proximity of where these things form and where they make landfall."

Congress has until the end of September to pass a federal budget for fiscal year 2018. At this point, no decision has been made on whether any tsunami warning programs or systems will be cut.

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