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Alaska Earthquake Center has interest piqued by Monday quake

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 4:21 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Earthquake Center has had their interest piqued by the earthquake that hit the Interior on Monday night.

According to Michael West, Director of the Alaska Earthquake Center, the earthquake could be felt across the Interior and beyond.

“Just after 9:30 on Monday evening, there was an earthquake felt pretty widely throughout the Interior,” West said. “The epicenter was located almost directly beneath Harding Lake. The earthquake was pretty close to the surface, which makes it much more likely to be felt and felt more strongly. People felt and [reported] observations throughout the Fairbanks region and Delta Junction, but as far south as Anchorage and a little beyond.”

With around 35 detected aftershocks having occurred since the original earthquake, the location of the epicenter shocked no one at the Alaska Earthquake Center.

“The location of this earthquake is not a surprise, it happened in an area that we refer to loosely as the Salcha Seismic Zone,” West explained. “We call it that because there’s a history of earthquakes here and they are not randomly scattered around. They, rather, fall along a very well defined delineation. If you take the location of all the historical earthquakes, there’s a feature there. There’s a geologic feature of some sort that is prone to creating these quakes.”

But what caught the eye of the Alaska Earthquake center was this quake’s proximity to another. “One of the things that has our attention, is that this earthquake occurred more or less in the same place as a almost as large earthquake back in July,” West said. “Two earthquakes do not create, you know, a sequence or series or something. But it does catch our attention that we’ve had two of them, and this is an area where we know that historically, much larger earthquakes are possible. So I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be keeping an eye on that area over the next few months.”

And along with July’s earthquake, historically, there is precedent for much larger quakes in the same area.

One of the reasons we pay attention to this area, and that it’s on the radar so to speak, is that it’s not far from the location of the 1937 earthquake which was in excess of magnitude seven” West continued. “That’s an earthquake that had tremendous impacts on the surface of the earth - you know, big cracks, fault lines, it had violent shaking across the Fairbanks region. Fairbanks was a different place of course in 1937. However, we know that the Salcha Seismic Zone is capable of earthquakes like that. They don’t happen very often, perhaps not in our lifetime, perhaps next month - and an earthquake of that size today, we would be talking about very different things right now had that earthquake occurred. That would be a highly destructive, and damaging, and potentially deadly event.”

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