Chugiak-Eagle River cleans up after big earthquake rocks area

Saturday, December 1, 2018 - 12:13
  • Municipal workers board up a window at the Chugiak-Eagle River Library on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018, after a large earthquake caused widespread damage. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Ceiling tiles and other debris at Chugiak High School on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck the area, causing widespread damage to the school’s ceiling and water pipes. No injuries were reported at the school. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)
  • Traffic snakes up the Eagle River Hill on the Old Glenn Highway bridge on Friday, Nov. 20, 2018. Traffic was routed around the Glenn Highway bridge following a 7.0 earthquake that struck the Anchorage area Friday morning. (Matt Tunseth / ADN)
  • Traffic travels in both directions on the outbound Glenn Highway on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. (Matt Tunseth / ADN)
  • Broken Christmas decorations outside the Eagle River Fred Meyer store on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 (Matt Tunseth / ADN)
  • A section of the Glenn Highway damaged by Friday’s earthquake. The road fell away between Eklutna and Mirror Lake. A Department of Transportation project manager said the damage will take several days to repair, but didn’t have an exact timeline. (Matt Tunseth / ADN)

Chugiak-Eagle River residents scrambled to clean up and assess the damage after a major earthquake struck the area Friday morning.

Damage was widespread across the area, with broken windows, broken pipes and major damage to the Glenn Highway between Eklutna and Mirror Lake.

The quake was reportedly a magnitude 7.0 and centered about 30 miles south of Palmer — directly across Knik Arm from Chugiak. There were no immediate reports of serious injuries, though reports were still coming in Friday.

The quake caused widespread power outages, with some Chugiak-Eagle River residents still without electricity Friday night. As of 4 a.m. Saturday, Matanuska Electric Association said power had been restored to all areas.

[Related: Lights back on in Chugiak-Eagle River after huge quake rattles grid]

The Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center on South Birchwood Loop was opened Friday night to anyone in need, with the Red Cross and Salvation Army on hand to help provide food and shelter to anyone in need.

[Read more at ADN.com]

Seismologists called the quake the most significant in the state’s largest city since 1964, in terms of how strong the ground itself shook.

“What happened in Anchorage was an emotionally disturbing event, a lot of people were very scared,” state seismologist Michael West told the Anchorage Daily News.

On Friday evening, the Anchorage Police Department shut down all inbound lanes of the Glenn Highway in order to accommodate more traffic heading to the Mat-Su. The closure was expected to last until 7 p.m. Drivers were being asked to use detours.

Big disruption

The quake caused the cancellation of Eagle River’s annual Winter Wonderland Christmas tree lighting celebration and the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce’s Merry Merchant Munch activities, according to a post on the chamber’s Facebook page.

A large section of the Glenn Highway blew out between Eklutna and Mirror Lake in the earthquake, a situation that the Alaska Department of Transportation was still getting a handle on Friday afternoon. DOT project manager Jed Cummings said the highway will likely take several days to repair, though he didn’t have an exact estimate because the situation was still being evaluated.

“It’s going to be several days before we’re done,” said Cummings.

Cummings said the highway will remain open, but inbound traffic will be routed onto the outbound lanes; he said two-way traffic through the area will likely result in long delays for motorists, but the highway is passable.

A contractor will be brought in to re-fill the area, where a roughly 50-yard section of highway was destroyed by the quake.

On Saturday, DOT said the northbound Glenn Highway Eagle River bridge suffered abutment damaged and has been closed. Traffic was being diverted at the northbound Hiland Road exit. The department said the highway between Anchorage and the Mat-Su will remain open, but commuters should expect long delays due to the damage.

Reports of damage were widespread in Eagle River, where windows were broken at the Chugiak-Eagle River Library on Business Boulevard. As crews worked to repair the windows, water could be seen rushing from the top of a nearby building housing Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant and FOCUS Inc. A man who said his wife works in the building said a water pipe broke.

Students safe

At Chugiak High School, about 20 students remained in the school’s library at around noon waiting for rides home. Vice principal Ben Johrendt said there were no injuries, but the school suffered fallen ceiling tiles and at least three broken pipes, which flooded the cafeteria.

“We got the water and gas turned off pretty quick,” said Johrendt, a Wisconsin native who said Friday’s shaker was the biggest he’s felt since moving to Alaska in 2009.

Despite “a few jitters” among students during the quake, Johrendt said the staff and students stayed calm during the incident.

“The staff knew what to do, security knew what to do,” he said.

In Eagle River, power was knocked out and long lines formed at closed gas stations and stores. A man walking up to the closed Eagle River Fred Meyer asked if the liquor store was open.

“Pretty much all the liquor is gone,” said a store manager, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Could have been worse

Although the damage was bad, many people said it could have been worse. At the Nail Time & Spa on the Old Glenn Highway, owner Kim Nguyn was thankful her business only suffered a broken window and damage to one nail station. Her prized chandeliers, Nguyn said, were undamaged.

“Isn’t that something?” Nguyen asked as she swept up debris from a broken window.

Nguyn credited a ceramic Buddha statue near the entrance for protecting her shop.

“I think the Buddha held everything up,” she said.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at editor@alaskastar.com

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