Homer residents got a rough wake up call Friday morning in the form of a 7 magnitude earthquake that rattled the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage, and surrounding areas.
Some Homerites, however, got a slightly more nasty shock as they traveled through Anchorage Friday morning.
The tremblor hit about 12 kilometers from Anchorage and was only about 41 kilometers deep, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
A tsunami warning was initially activated for the Cook Inlet area and Southern Kenai Peninsula, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but it was lifted just a few hours after the initial shock.
Tom Sulczynski, an IT analyst with the City of Homer, and Bekah Taylor, who works at the Rum Locker, were in a car on the way to the Ted Stevens International Airport when the quake struck. Sulczynski was driving on the off ramp leading from Minnesota Drive to Walter J. Hickel Parkway.
“I thought I either had a flat tire…,” he said. “Then I realized, no, the way the car was driving, it didn’t feel like a flat tire. I thought it was maybe a broken axel. So I was kind of trying to get around cars to pull over, and then I saw, you know, the road kind of breaking up around me, so I realized it was an earthquake.”
Taylor, Sulczynski’s passenger, said they knew it wasn’t a flat tire when they saw other cars stopping on the off ramp.
“We’re slowing down because we thought that something was wrong with the car,” Taylor said. “And then finally we got ahead a little bit and basically we started seeing like the side of the road, like it was collapsing — the side of the road that we were on. And you could see it getting deeper and deeper.”
“I turned around and looked out back and you could see all the chunky pieces of the road that we had just driven on, like, two seconds before,” she continued. “And then we just stopped, and that’s where the car is right now.”
The pair are flying to Seattle to take care of some business with a storage unit Taylor has there, and then on to California for a short vacation to visit Sulczynski’s family. They had to abandon the vehicle on the road after climbing to a safe spot.
“There’s a slab that was in front of the car that kind of was leaning from, like, the side that we were on … and so we just kind of climbed over that to get out of there,” Sulczynski said.
Sulczynski said emergency services showed up about 20 minutes after the quake.
“They didn’t really do much except take a statement and get all our information,” he said. “There’s really not much they could do. My car is still there. It’s stuck and I haven’t really figured out where to go from here to get it out of there.”
Sulczynski said a passerby offered them a ride on to the airport. He hasn’t been able to get confirmation from the Anchorage Police or local towing companies that his vehicle will be removed from the road.
“I have OnStar … as part of my, like, package with the car, and their response was, …’we don’t do earthquake recovery,’” Sulczynski said. “I called my insurance company and they basically just gave me phone numbers for … towing companies in town, you know in Anchorage. They weren’t really wanting to do anything either. It’s kind of frustrating.”
He said he and Taylor will continue on with their planned trip and attempt to recover the car remotely. Most of the flights are delayed, Sulczynski said.
“It’s pretty chill,” Taylor said of the scene at the airport. “When we first got here there was like a water line (that) broke by the Starbucks over at Alaska Airlines, and it was just like raining inside the building, and they were mopping it up.”
Another Homer resident, Seth Spencer, is also at the airport awaiting a flight back to Homer. Spencer, education program coordinator for the Center for Alaska Coastal Studies, was in Anchorage for the Alaska After School Conference with fellow educator Henry Rieske were staying at the Sheraton Hotel, where the conference was being held.
At the time of the tremblor, however, Spencer said they were in a café across the street. He said power went out almost immediately after the earthquake began.
“Thing were falling off the walls,” he said. “Most of us went under tables.”
Someone shouted for everyone to get out, so Spencer and Rieske exited the café. Spencer said there was water damage to the hotel, where pipes had burst, causing ceiling tiles to fall down.
Spencer and Rieske got a Lyft to the airport, where they were already scheduled to fly back to Homer this evening. They tried to get an earlier flight, but Spencer said they’ve all been canceled.
“We were both supposed to present today at the conference,” Spencer said.
Once they realized the power was out and the conference was canceled, Spencer said he and Rieske decided there was no reason to stick around. Coincidentally, he said members of NOAA were also in attendance at the conference, and were able to let everyone know they were safe from a tsunami at their location.
“I think overall it sounds like nobody really got injured hopefully,” Spencer said.