A magnitude 7.8 Aleutian earthquake late Tuesday night prompted tsunami warnings in communities across coastal Alaska, from Homer to Unalaska.
In Sand Point — a fishing community of about a thousand people in the eastern Aleutians — earthquake damage has closed both city docks, which are used to land freight boats and the M/V Tustumena ferry. The earthquake damaged the road to the harbor as well.
On Sand Point’s old dock, a warehouse floor sank and cracked along the length of the cement. City Administrator Jordan Keeler says that a team of engineers will inspect the damage in the next week or so, but he’s confident that it looks worse than it really is.
“We have two docks total and they are both closed, effective immediately until we can get an inspection to verify the extent of the damage to both the new dock and the old dock,” Keeler said.
In the meantime, closing down the docks could mean that freight shipments will be cancelled until they reopen. That could impact the island community’s ability to get fresh food.
All things considered, and despite the damage caused by the earthquake, Keeler says things went smoothly.
“I’m just glad nobody was hurt,” he said. “Everybody was safe, and given the magnitude of the earthquake, the small amount of damage we did see, we are fortunate.”
Tsunami warnings after the earthquake named Sand Point as the first community that could see a wave, but the wave turned out to be less than a foot tall, according to the National Tsunami Warning Center.
Keeler says the community’s tsunami sirens sounded and the evacuation to the local school was orderly, even with only two public safety officers in the community.
“We had people from the Trident plant go to the evacuation center. We had community members who live in lower lying areas, as well as people associated with the commercial fishing fleet go to the evacuation center,” Keeler said.
But he added that given the COVID-19 pandemic, it was unusual to see members of the community in the same space as workers from the Trident Seafoods processing facility, which employs as many as 400 people.
“Trident has a company-wide policy of not leaving the premises,” Keeler said. “So it was the first time this season that there was any even remotely close interaction between the community and the Trident plant employees.”
The processors and community members did not gather in the same room, he added.
To date, there are no known cases of COVID-19 in Sand Point.