A large 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck off Alaska’s Kodiak Island early Tuesday, prompting a tsunami warning for a large swath of coastal Alaska and Canada’s British Columbia and watch for the remainder of the West Coast.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was recorded about at 12:31 a.m. local tim about 155 miles off of Chiniak, Alaska and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said “widespread hazardous tsunami waves were possible.”
Buoy 46410, which is northeast of the quake’s epicenter, has recorded a “water displacement” of 32 feet, the National Weather Service said. The reported 32 foot wave was projected to reach Kodiak, Alaska about an hour after the initial earthquake.
Lt. Tim Putney of the Kodiak Police Department told the Associated Press there had been any reports of a wave and nothing had been seen, yet.
However, officials were telling people to hold fast at evacuation centers until further notice. He said the town has several shelters above the 100-foot mark, and they were still encouraging people below that level to evacuate. Police have not yet received any reports of damage.
The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said the quake was felt widely in several communities on the Kenai Peninsula and throughout southern Alaska, but it also had no immediate reports of damage.
“This is a very large earthquake, and Alaska is no stranger to earthquakes or tsunamis,” Fox News’ Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean said on “FOX & friends.” “They’ve had four of them in the past.”
The Kodiak Police Department also posted a video to Facebook imploring residents to leave their homes and to head for higher ground.
“This is not a drill,” Kodiak Police Sergeant Derek Beaver said in the video. “This is an actual tsunami warning. Everyone please get at least 100 feet above sea level.”
“If you are located in this coastal area, move inland to higher ground,” the Anchorage Office of Emergency Management said. “Tsunami warnings mean that a tsunami with significant inundation is possible or is already occurring. Tsunamis are a series of waves dangerous many hours after initial arrival time. The first wave may not be the largest.”
The PTWC originally included Hawaii in the tsunami watch, but later canceled it for the state. A tsunami watch still remains for the West Coast of the U.S. In San Francisco, emergency officials warned residents who live within three blocks of the Pacific Coast and five blocks of the San Francisco Bay should be prepared to evacuation if needed.
Keith Perkins, who lives in the southeast Alaska community of Sitka, arrived at the high school early Tuesday morning, after an alarm on his cellphone alerted him of the tsunami warning. He says the city’s sirens also went off later.
He said people on Facebook were chattering back and forth about whether this was real or not and what they should do.
Given the magnitude of the earthquake, Perkins said he thought it best to head to school, the tsunami evacuation point, even though in the past he felt his home was at a “high-enough spot.
“I figured I’d probably just better play it safe,” he said.
He said police officers were directing traffic and the parking lot at the school was filling up. He said he saw some people carrying suitcases or backpacks. Perkins said he didn’t bring anything along.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.