Tsunami warning prompts evacuation to high ground

Jul 22, 2020

Tsunami danger areas.
Credit City of Homer

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.8, located just south of Chignik on the Alaska Peninsula shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday night, generated a tsunami warning for the length of the Alaska Peninsula, from Unimak Pass to Kachemak Bay, including Kodiak Island. The warning was cancelled at 12:23 this morning.

A small wave of less than 10-inches was measured in Sand Point, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center.

The tsunami sirens around Homer began sounding around 10:30 p.m., with announcements urging people to evacuate to higher ground. A line of car lights stretching the length of the Homer Spit were seen soon afterwards.

Reports from the city of Homer’s Emergency Operations Center around midnight were that both the Homer High School and Homer Middle School parking lots had been filled with evacuees.

On the Bypass, Tracy Crowley was in her Aspen Suites Hotel room when she got the tsunami warning on her phone. A teacher from Chicago, Crowley told APRN’s Liz Ruskin that the front desk wasn't of immediate help.

        “They said they had no idea what the protocols were, that she was looking into it and that her manager was on the way and we could call back,” Crowley said.

But when the sirens sounded, Crowley said she and her friend got nervous and decided to drive toward high ground. They ended up on Diamond Ridge Road, parked in their rental car for over an hour, scrolling for information on their phones.

Before the tsunami warning was cancelled, the first wave was predicted to reach Homer at 1:25 a.m.

The triggering earthquake was in the Gulf of Alaska, 76 miles southeast of Perryville on the south side of the Alaska Peninsula, at a depth of only 14 miles. It was felt in Homer, and as far away as Dillingham and Anchorage. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Pacific tectonic plate converges with North America to the northwest at the location of the quake at a rate of about 2.5-inches (64 mm) per year, and subducts into the Alaska-Aleutians trench.

No damage from the quake or tsunami have been reported.