Alaska News

Injuries, road damage and gas leaks reported in Mat-Su after 7.0 earthquake

PALMER -- Friday morning’s earthquake damaged several major roads in Mat-Su and left some people hurt after the sharp, terrifying shaking stopped.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 7.0, knocked out power throughout the Valley and triggered the evacuation of numerous schools and professional buildings. It was centered 35 miles southwest of Palmer, near the Mat-Su port on Point MacKenzie.

Several roads were significantly damaged, including Palmer-Wasilla Highway -- one of the busiest roads in the Valley -- as well as Pittman Road, Vine Road, and the Parks and Glenn highway interchange, according to a Matanuska-Susitna Borough update. Images of Vine Road showed it badly buckled and split by large cracks in multiple spots. A section of road has collapsed and the road is closed to traffic.

Palmer-Wasilla has long cracks near Shenandoah Drive but is passable, borough officials say. Pittman is still passable despite longitudinal cracks. A 6-foot crack opened in Point MacKenzie Road but one lane is passable. West Susitna Parkway had severe cracks but was passable.

Officials urged people to stay off the roads, but if they must drive, to use caution and treat all intersections as four way stops if lights are not operational.

Mat-Su Regional Medical Center reported “scattered” injuries due to the quake, according to spokesman Alan Craft. The hospital was fully operational Friday, and expecting to see some patients who couldn’t make it to Anchorage because of highway delays or closures, Craft said.

A Houston resident received serious injuries after the quake when a fire started in his ammunition room and he suffered airway burns trying to put it out before firefighters arrived, Houston fire chief Christian Hartley said. A Houston woman was also injured when a shelf fell on an arm with a previous injury, Hartley said.

Fire crews responded to numerous reports of gas leaks and several structure fires, including a report of smoke filling the recruiting center in Wasilla. People who smelled gas were told to evacuate and call 911. Borough responders also reported 150 gallons of diesel spilled from a tank in Big Lake and water gushing from a broken water pipe at Target in Wasilla. A medical office building next to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center was evacuated due to a gas leak.

Mat-Su borough officials said it wasn’t immediately clear what if any damage the port sustained.

A shelter had been set up at the Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla for residents who couldn’t stay at home.

Most schools remained open, but district officials urged parents to pick up their children when they could. Students at Houston Middle School were evacuated to Houston High School.

At Colony Middle School, students screamed and some cried as they hunkered under desks, then evacuated outside through a dusty haze after some ceiling tiles collapsed; similar reports came in from other schools. Many students called parents to pick them up. Colony Middle ended up bussing all remaining students home Friday due to a power outage, continued aftershocks and the need to assess structural damage, according to an update from the principal.

All school district activities for Friday and the weekend were canceled, district spokeswoman Jillian Morrissey said.

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