On Alaska Base, Clean-Up Starts After 7.0 Earthquake

  • An airman at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson sweeps water at the base's Buckner Fitness Center a day after a 7.0 earthquake rattled the region. (U.S. Air Force)
    An airman at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson sweeps water at the base's Buckner Fitness Center a day after a 7.0 earthquake rattled the region. (U.S. Air Force)
  • Airmen assess damage on Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson, Alaska the day after a 7.0 earthquake rattled the region. (U.S. Air Force)
    Airmen assess damage on Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson, Alaska the day after a 7.0 earthquake rattled the region. (U.S. Air Force)
  • A view of the commissary on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska after a 7.0 earthquake shook stock from shelves Nov. 30. (U.S. Air Force)
    A view of the commissary on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska after a 7.0 earthquake shook stock from shelves Nov. 30. (U.S. Air Force)
  • Volunteers clean items at the commissary on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska the day after a 7.0 earthquake shook stock from shelves. (U.S. Air Force)
    Volunteers clean items at the commissary on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska the day after a 7.0 earthquake shook stock from shelves. (U.S. Air Force)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Even as aftershocks continued to rattle the region, troops and families here spent Saturday picking up the pieces and assessing damage, a day after the largest earthquake in recent history.

The 7.0 magnitude quake struck at 8:29 a.m. Friday, over an hour before sunrise. With an epicenter about seven miles northwest of the base, it was followed six minutes later by a 5.7 magnitude aftershock -- the first of hundreds of such smaller quakes over the following 36 hours. A tsunami warning was issued for the region near base, then later canceled.

While no fatalities have been reported, the extensive damage caused to roads and property through the Anchorage area and the nearby Matanuska-Susitna Valley is still being assessed.

Several major thoroughfares completely or partially collapsed. Residents reported homes full of shattered personal items, while ceiling tiles fell, windows and glass shattered and water mains broke in some buildings. And at stores across the region, shelves of items tipped over or were simply rattled free of their contents.

With snow in the forecast and some major roads detoured thanks to the damage, including the region's primary highway which runs past this base, local officials warned residents to stay home if they can.

"This is one of those weekends, boy, stay home and stream Netflix," Anchorage Fire Chief Jodie Hettrick said during a Dec. 1 news conference.

On base, 100 percent of personnel have been accounted for, and officials Saturday said they were making their way through assessing structures for damage. No Army or Air Force assets have been reported as damaged. Water and gas has been completely restored to all buildings, gas stations and shoppettes have reopened and all dining halls are fully operational, according to announcements on the base Facebook page.

Some National Guard drill dates scheduled for the base over the weekend have been canceled. Troops stationed on base are instructed to contact their units for information about reporting for duty Monday, and civilian employees are authorized an excused absence for natural disaster or liberal leave.

Air Force PT testing scheduled for Monday and Tuesday is canceled, as are all appointments scheduled for Monday at the base hospital. Most base fitness centers are also closed for clean-up. A 9th Army Band holiday concert planned for Saturday was rescheduled.

Child Development Centers are set to reopen Monday on a normal schedule, officials said. On-base schools, however, which are operated by the Anchorage School District, will be closed Monday and Tuesday. The commissary reopened Saturday after volunteers and staff spent the morning cleaning up broken items that had dropped from shelves.

Base residents are instructed to direct legal claims involving damage caused by government property to base officials, but were warned that claims must first be settled with their renter insurance for damage to personal property or damage to items in their on-base residence.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at Amy.Bushatz@military.com.

 

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