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'Moderate' 5.9-magnitude earthquake shakes Kenai

Courtesy of USGS

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake centered in Lake Clark National Park shook the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska Tuesday afternoon at about 1:40 p.m.

The epicenter of the quake was around seven miles northwest of Mount Iliamna, across Cook Inlet from Ninilchik. That’s according to the U.S. Geological Survey. 

Alex Farrell, a scientific developer with the Alaska Earthquake Center in Fairbanks, said this quake is “moderate” by the center’s standards.

"This is not the largest earthquake of the year but it is definitely significant," she said.

Farrell said there are no reports of damage so far. She says that’s likely because the earthquake was 95 miles deep and far from a population center. For contrast, the 2018 Anchorage earthquake was less than 30 miles deep.

Many of the messages sent to the USGS “Did You Feel It?” map come from the western Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage and report “light” shaking.” Farrell said the strongest reports came up from the Homer area. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were reports as far north as Fairbanks and as far south as Kodiak.

Ashlyn O’Hara was working at her office in Kenai when it happened. 

“I was sitting at my desk and could feel the rumbling in my chair," she said. "And we have string lights hanging up in our office so I looked around my computer and those were swinging back and forth.”

O’Hara’s from Southern California and has done her fair share of earthquake drills. She dropped and covered under her desk.

“I’ve felt earthquakes before," she said. "But in terms of one that sticks out in terms of being really strong, I think this is probably the second one where I could feel it and notice it.”

She said the quake lasted long enough for her to take out her phone and start recording while she was under her desk.

Farrell said a tsunami is not expected. But she said earthquakes of this size to tend to have aftershocks.

"You’ll tend to have more aftershocks closer in time, and then as you get further away in time from when the earthquake occurred, you’ll get fewer and fewer aftershocks," she said.

Farrell said aftershocks tend to be slightly smaller than the original quake, although a larger quake is not out of the question. She said it is likely only a few aftershocks will be felt.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. 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 and Kenai.
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