Weekend earthquake sets off tsunami sirens in Homer
Following a 7.2-magnitude earthquake near Sand Point Saturday night, alerts about a potential tsunami hit phones all over the Kenai Peninsula and triggered sirens in Homer.
The earthquake hit about 60 miles south of Sand Point just before 11 p.m. Saturday. Sirens in Homer went off for 20 to 30 minutes and were shut off after the Kenai Peninsula Borough got the all clear around 11:35, said Emergency Manager Brenda Ahlberg. Evacuations started on the Homer Spit Saturday night, before officers with the Homer Police Department advised people there that they were in the clear, according to John Anderson with Heritage RV Park.
In Seward, the borough issued an all-clear quickly, immediately silencing sirens there.
Ahlberg said the sirens were not false alarms — rather, her office was waiting on confirmation from the state and Tsunami Warning Center that the western Kenai Peninsula wasn’t in the inundation zone.
“I want folks to know that we will always err on the side of caution,” Ahlberg said. “And that we do understand the inconvenience that these alerts do cause people, especially when there's a perception that there’s a false alarm. And it is not — the borough takes it very seriously when there is an activation.”
The U.S. National Weather Service also issued text alerts about the tsunami threat just after 10:50 p.m. Saturday. But those texts also reached phones in communities that were not at risk, including the central Kenai Peninsula and some in Anchorage.
Aviva Braun with the Anchorage Forecast Office said that’s because the service sends out warnings to designated zones. She said that catches communities that are not actually in the inundation area, like Cooper Landing and Kenai.
“There are always going to be communities that are overalerted, even if we carve out every single possible area,” she said.
Braun said the National Weather Service is trying to figure out how to make its warnings more targeted all over the U.S.
She said every time there’s a warning, the office learns something new about the system.
“And it just so happens that this is not an event that happens frequently,” Braun said. “So it’s much harder to diagnose everything as it occurs.”
The alert was canceled altogether just before 1 a.m. Sunday. There were reports of a six-inch wave in Sand Point and King Cove, but none of significant damage.
Local siren tests to come
Separately, Ahlberg said the Kenai Peninsula Borough is upgrading its tsunami siren system in Homer and Seward later this month, including a new siren off Kachemak Drive in Homer and one in Anchor Point. She said they’ll be conducting live siren tests at those sites during installation, beginning July 24, including live siren test followed by an all-clear message at each location
Find the testing schedule below:
July 24-25: Homer Harbormaster
July 26-27: Homer Ice Rink
July 28-29: Homer Mariner Park
July 31-August 1: Nanwalek
August 2-3: Port Graham
August 4-5: Seldovia
August 7-8: Homer Fish & Game
August 8-9: Homer Bishops Beach
August 9-10: Homer Northern Enterprises Boat Yard *NEW*
August 10-11: Anchor Point *NEW*
August 14-15: Seward Nash Rd *temporary road closure*
August 16-17: Seward Marine Industrial
August 17-18: Seward High School
August 18-19: Seward Harbormaster
August 21-22: Seward Fire Station
August 22-23: Lowell Point