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Weekend earthquake sets off tsunami sirens in Homer

The warning was first issued around 10:50 Saturday night, followed by an all-clear for Kachemak Bay at 11:35 p.m.
Sabine Poux
The warning was first issued around 10:50 Saturday night, followed by an all-clear for Kachemak Bay at 11:35 p.m.

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

Local News Kenai Peninsula NewstsunamiNational Tsunami Warning CenterKenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management
Sabine Poux is a freelance reporter based in Homer. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont, where she fell in love with local news. She covers all things Kenai Peninsula, but is especially interested in stories related to energy and fishing. She'd love to hear your ideas at
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