JUNEAU, Alaska — A powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck remote southern Alaska early on Sunday, unleashing shudders felt several hundred miles from the temblor’s lakefront epicenter near on the far end of Cook Inlet from Anchorage, the state’s largest city.
No injuries were reported, but several neighborhoods in the town of Kenai — roughly halfway between the quake’s center and Anchorage — were temporarily evacuated after a gas explosion damaged four homes several hours later, a city spokesman said.
He said it was not immediately clear whether the blast was related to the earthquake.
There were also reports of brief power outages in Anchorage, about 160 miles southwest of the epicenter, and cities immediately to the north and south.
The quake, initially reported at a magnitude 7.3, struck at 1:30 a.m. about 30 miles east-southeast of Pedro Bay on the shore of Iliamna Lake, at the foot of a mountain chain just west of Cook Inlet, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.
The quake was felt as far away as Whitehorse, the capital of Canada’s Yukon Territory more than 600 miles east of Anchorage, according to the USGS.
It was recorded 79 miles beneath the surface, a depth that helped keep damage to a minimum, said Dara Merz, a research technician with the Alaska Earthquake Center in Fairbanks.
“If you take into account how deep it was, that’s a lot of earth and rock that seismic waves have to work through to get to the surface,” Merz said.
The Fairbanks agency reported a series of aftershocks reaching magnitudes of up to 4.7, though Merz said even larger tremors could follow.
Alaska, a very seismically active state, records anywhere from 80 to 100 quakes daily, most of them hardly ever noticed. One of the more powerful quakes to hit Alaska in recent years was a 7.9 magnitude temblor that struck beneath the ocean floor near the Aleutian Islands chain in June 2014, but it caused no injuries or major damage.
After Sunday’s quake, jittery Anchorage residents and hotel guests who briefly fled their buildings took to social media sites to share their experiences. Some posted photos of stores with aisles littered by fallen merchandise knocked off shelves to the floor.
The quake produced no tsunami threat, according to the U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.