Major quake strikes off Alaska, briefly sounding tsunami warning

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck near the Alaskan peninsula late Tuesday, shaking buildings, but there were no immediate reports of injuries and the U.S. National Tsunami Warning Center canceled an earlier warning of potentially hazardous waves.

In Kodiak, the largest community in the earthquake area on an island south of Anchorage, some residents posted video on social media of people walking up to the high school, which was serving as a shelter, and of sirens sounding alarms.

The quake struck off the coast, 65 miles (105 km) south-south east of Perryville, Alaska, at a depth of 17.4 miles (28 km), according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

The Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for the coastal areas of south Alaska, the Alaskan Peninsula and Aleutian Islands, but about two hours later, just after midnight, it canceled the warning.

Early evidence suggests that the quake, which was felt 500 miles (805 km) away in Anchorage, the state’s largest city, struck the “Shumagin Gap” between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, state seismologist Mike West said. Because the area was previously unruptured, it is in theory overdue for a very big earthquake, he said in a statement.

Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said emergency officials were trying to contact people in all the affected communities.

The closest is Sand Point, a town of about 1,000 on another island off the tip of the Alaskan Peninsula. Sand Point has been evacuated and sounded its emergency sirens, Zidek said.

“I believe that there’s some damage from the shaking, but they have not been able to confirm that,” he said, adding that he had heard no reports of serious injuries.

Other towns had sounded their alarms and started evacuations, he said. It was unclear what damage may have occurred.

In Homer, a Kenai Peninsula town of about 5,800 people, residents in low-lying areas were told to use the city’s high school as a shelter, according to local public radio there.

(Reporting by Rama Venkat and Radhika Anilumar in Bengaluru and Yereth Rosen in Alaska; Editing by Alex Richardson and Leslie Adler)

Ten more states added to New York quarantine order: Cuomo

(Reuters) – Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday ordered those arriving in New York from an additional 10 states to quarantine for 14 days to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus as cases flare up across the country.

Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, Washington were added to the travel order which was first issued in June. Minnesota was removed.

Travelers arriving in New York from a total of 31 U.S. states are now required to quarantine upon arrival in New York, according to the travel advisory.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

U.S. states from Minnesota to Mississippi to reopen despite health warnings

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. states from Minnesota to Mississippi this week prepared to join other states that have eased coronavirus restrictions to try to revive their battered economies, although some business owners voiced reluctance in the face of health warnings.

Colorado, Montana and Tennessee were also set to allow some businesses deemed nonessential to reopen after being shut for weeks even as health experts advocated for more diagnostic testing to ensure safety.

Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska and South Carolina previously restarted their economies following weeks of mandatory lockdowns that have thrown millions of American workers out of their jobs.

The number of known U.S. infections kept climbing on Monday, topping 970,000 as the number of lives lost to COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the virus, surpassed 54,800.

Public health authorities warn that increasing human interactions and economic activity may spark a new surge of infections just as social-distancing measures appear to be bringing coronavirus outbreaks under control.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in a Twitter message late on Sunday that he would announce a roadmap for “responsibly reopening” the state at a Noon ET (1600 GMT) news conference on Monday.

Although unprecedented stay-at-home orders have put many businesses in jeopardy, many owners have expressed ambivalence about returning to work without more safeguards.

‘I WOULD STAY HOME’

“I would stay home if the government encouraged that, but they’re not. They’re saying, ‘Hey, the best thing to do is go back to work, even though it might be risky,’” Royal Rose, 39, owner of a tattoo studio in Greeley, Colorado, told Reuters.

The state’s Democratic governor, Jared Polis, has given the green light for retail curbside pickup to begin on Monday. Hair salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors may open on Friday, with retail stores, restaurants and movie theaters to follow.

Business shutdowns have led to a record 26.5 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits since mid-March and the White House has forecast a staggering jump in the nation’s monthly jobless rate.

President Donald Trump’s economic adviser Kevin Hassett told reporters on Sunday the jobless rate would likely hit 16% or more in April, and that “the next couple of months are going to look terrible.”

On Monday, White House adviser Peter Navarro said the Trump administration is focusing on protocols to keep U.S. factories open as the country grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, including screening workers for potential cases.

“You’re going to have to reconfigure factories,” Navarro told Fox News. “You’re going to have to use things like thermoscanners to check fever as they come in.”

Trump was scheduled to hold a video call with the country’s governors on Monday afternoon before the White House coronavirus task force’s daily briefing.

The rise in the number of U.S. cases has been attributed in part to increased diagnostic screening. But health authorities also warn that testing and contact tracing must be vastly expanded before shuttered businesses can safely reopen widely.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Nicholas Brown and Brendan O’Brien; Writing by Maria Caspani; Editing by Howard Goller)

 

Alaska volcano spews thick ash cloud, triggering aviation warning

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – An Alaska volcano that has been rumbling since midsummer shot ash about 5 miles (8 km) into the sky on Sunday, triggering a warning to aviators and dusting one small fishing village, officials reported.

Shishaldin Volcano, one of the most active in Alaska, kicked out a plume of ash that satellite imagery detected as high as 28,000 feet (8,535 m) above sea level, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory, the joint federal-state-university office that tracks the state’s many volcanoes.

The plume stretched about 90 miles (145 km) as of midday, blowing mostly east and over the Gulf of Alaska, said the observatory.

A sprinkling of ash was reported in the tiny Aleutian village of False Pass, about 23 miles (37 km) northeast of the Shishaldin, said David Fee, the observatory’s University of Alaska Fairbanks coordinating scientist.

“Someone reported some ash on their windshield,” he said.

False Pass has a year-round population of about 40, according to state data, but draws many more people during the summer fishing season.

Also pouring out of Shishaldin’s caldera on Sunday was a stream of red-hot lava, the observatory reported.

Shishaldin has been in an on-and-off eruptive phase since July, occasionally dribbling lava down its snowy flanks and puffing ash and steam.

Most of the ash production has been relatively minor, but Sunday’s event was serious enough to warrant a “code red” warning for air traffic to avoid the area, the second such warning in the volcano’s current eruptive phase, Fee said.

“It’s a higher plume. It’s sustained. And it’s a higher concentration,” he said.

Shishaldin, about 680 miles (1,095 km) southwest of Anchorage, is the tallest mountain in the Aleutian chain, rising to 9,373 feet (2,857 m) in elevation. The upper two-thirds of the spherical peak are usually cloaked year-round in snow and ice, according to the observatory.

It is in a cluster of frequently erupting volcanoes in the eastern Aleutians. “This is the most active region in Alaska for volcanic activity,” Fee said.

(Reporting by Yereth Rosen; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Rumbling Alaska volcano sends ash plume 5 miles into the air

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – One of Alaska’s most active volcanoes, a towering ice-covered cone in the Aleutian Islands, shot a cloud of ash more than 5 miles high on Friday, triggering a warning to aviators and putting on a show that was captured in satellite imagery.

The ash burst from Shishaldin Volcano, about 670 miles southwest of Anchorage, was part of an on-and-off, mostly low-level series of eruptions that began in July with a stream of lava from the crater at the peak of the 9,373-foot-tall mountain.

The ash plume was spotted by a pilot and was visible in satellite images captured from space. It drifted over the sea at least 75 miles southeast of the volcano, the Alaska Volcano Observatory reported.

No communities were affected by ashfall or were otherwise in danger as of Friday morning, said David Fee of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, a coordinating scientist with the observatory.

“This is a remote volcano,” he said.

The National Weather Service issued an alert, and air traffic was advised to steer clear of Shishaldin, though aviators were already avoiding the volcano well before Friday because of earlier activity, Fee said.

While Friday’s cloud, the largest yet of the series, was considered moderate, conditions at Shishaldin could worsen quickly.

“Shishaldin remains at a heightened level of unrest, and explosions may occur with little warning,” the observatory warned in a public statement. Friday’s explosion lasted about an hour to 90 minutes, U.S. Geological Survey scientist Matt Haney said.

(Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage; Editing by Steve Gorman & Kim Coghill)

Disappearing frontier: Alaska’s glaciers retreating at record pace

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE (Reuters) – Alaska will soon close a year that is shaping up as its hottest on record, with glaciers in the “Frontier State” melting at record or near-record levels, pouring waters into rising global seas, scientists said after taking fall measurements.

Lemon Creek Glacier in Juneau, where records go back to the 1940s, had its second consecutive year of record mass loss, with 3 meters erased from the surface, U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Louis Sass told Reuters.

Melt went all the way up to the summit, said Sass, one of the experts who travel to benchmark glaciers to take measurements in the fall.

“That’s a really bad sign for a glacier,” he said, noting that high-altitude melt means there is no accumulation of snow to compact into ice and help offset lower-elevation losses.

At Wolverine Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, loss was the second highest in a record that goes back to the 1960s. Sass said it failed to match the record set in 2004 only because so much of the glacier had already melted.

“The lower part’s completely gone now,” he said.

Drastic melting was also reported at Kenai Fjords National Park, which former President Barack Obama once visited to call attention to climate change. There, Bear Glacier, a popular tourist spot, retreated by nearly a kilometer in just 11 months, according to August measurements by the National Park Service.

“It’s almost like you popped it and it started to deflate,” said Nate Lewis, a Seward-based wilderness guide who takes travelers into the new lake that has formed at the foot of the shrinking glacier.

Even one of the few Alaska glaciers that had been advancing, Taku just southeast of the city of Juneau, is now losing ice at a fast clip.

Particularly ominous is the high altitude at which Taku is melting, said Mauri Pelto, who heads the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. This year, the summer melt reached as high as 1,450 meters, 25 meters above the previous high-altitude record set just last year, he said.

CASTING OFF CHUNKS

Now that it is retreating, Taku is expected to start casting off big ice chunks, increasing Alaska’s already significant contribution to rising sea levels, according to a study co-authored by Sass and Shad O’Neel, a glaciologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The study is scheduled to be presented at the annual conference of the American Geologic Union next week in San Francisco.

Alaska recorded its warmest month ever in July and the trend has continued.

“Alaska is on pace to break their record for warmest year unless December is dramatically cooler than forecasted,” Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, said in a Dec. 1 tweet.

Alaska’s glaciers account for far less than 1 percent of the world’s land ice. But their melt contributes roughly 7 percent of the water that is raising the world’s sea levels, according a 2018 study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and co-authored by O’Neel.

There are also local impacts. Scientists say glacial melt affects salmon-spawning streams and harms marine fish and animal habitats. It is creating new lakes in the voids where ice used to be, and outburst floods from those lakes are happening more frequently, scientists say.

Changes in the glaciers and the ecosystems they feed has been so fast that they are hard to track, said O’ Neel at USGS, who measured the melt at Wolverine Glacier last month. “Everything’s been pretty haywire lately.”

(Reporting by Yereth Rosen; editing by Bill Tarrant and David Gregorio)

Family Entertainment on PTL Television Network; “Alaska Missionaries” Faith for this generation!

By Kami Klein

It’s no secret that the PTL Television Network offers fantastic and inspirational Christian TV. One family favorite is “Alaska Missionaries”

Every Missionary has a cause, not only to proclaim the Word of God but to bring hope where it is desperately needed. For Ron and Yolanda Pratt and their team, it is the mission of “This Generation Ministries” to reach the lost of Alaska and bring them the promise and love of the Gospel.

In the state of Alaska, one person dies of suicide every 44 hours, the 4th biggest cause of death in that state. Young people are becoming more and more at risk which creates an urgent need for the Alaska Missionaries. In spite of tremendous odds, danger, and cost, they are united by a cause. To build a place of healing for native youth in the middle of the harsh climate of this wild country.

Each episode of Alaska Missionaries will take the viewers on a journey through an entire summer camp schedule. From the early summer preparations at home base in North Pole, Alaska to the return in late summer, these episodes will take you on a trek driving through back roads, navigating rivers and the challenges off the grid.

Join Papa Bear (Ron Pratt) and Mama Bear (Yolanda Pratt) and experience what happens when Faith meets incredible hardship and the miracles of God’s grace.

You will feel like you are one of the team as you travel through remote areas of wilderness and witness incredible hazards transporting supplies to camp that at times are so dangerous many would simply want to quit. You will get to know the volunteer teams and the dedicated people of faith giving their all to make a difference.

With breathtaking scenery, adventurous landscapes and down to earth personalities, this Alaskan show is perfect for the whole family!

You can watch “Alaskan Missionaries” on the PTL Network from your Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or ptlnetwork.com. And don’t forget that we now offer an app for your phone so you can watch and get your inspiration wherever you are!
Simply go to the Apple App Store, Google Play, or Kindle’s App Store; type in PTL Television Network under the search and get your free download today!

As fall begins in Alaska, wildfires linked to warming rage on

FILE PHOTO: Firefighters from the Chugach National Forest work to protect the Romig Cabin on Juneau Lake from the Swan Lake Fire near Cooper Landing, Alaska, U.S. in this August 28, 2019 handout photo. Chugach National Forest/Handout via

By Yereth Rosen

SEWARD, Alaska (Reuters) – Leaves in Alaska are changing color and the rainy season is supposed to begin, but wildfires are raging on in an unusually long and fierce fire season that scientists say is linked to the far north’s long-term climate warmup.

Usually, Alaska wildfires wind down by late July, but this week, the state Department of Natural Resources extended the official fire season to Sept. 30. Last week, Governor Mike Dunleavy declared state emergencies for fires burning north and south of Anchorage.

The most serious blaze is the Swan Lake Fire on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, which had grown to over 160,000 acres (64,750 hectares) by Thursday and the 3,300-acre (1,335- hectare) McKinley Fire north of Anchorage.

Billowing smoke from the Swan Lake Fire has sent particulate pollution levels in the Kenai Peninsula to some of the worst measured anywhere in the world. Ignited by an early June lightning strike, the fire has snarled traffic and nearly shut down tourism in an area famous for its outdoor recreation.

In the port town of Seward, thick smoke blowing south from the Swan Lake fire blotted out the normally spectacular views of mountains and glaciers and forced cancelation of tourists’ excursions.

“What can you do? Global warming,” said Marlee Hernandez at Exit Glacier Tours in Seward.

“It’s been kind of a botched summer,” said Joe Drevets, who was working behind the counter at Seward’s Sea Bean Café.

The McKinley Fire has destroyed more than 130 structures, 51 of them primary homes, and displaced hundreds of people in the woodsy area, about 80 miles (130 km) north of Anchorage. It was 71-percent contained on Thursday and officials were allowing evacuated residents to return, but 560 firefighters remained on duty.

More than 200 Alaska fires remained active on Thursday, according to state and federal fire officials. In all, 684 fires have burned over 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) in Alaska this year. Though far short of the record 6.6 million acres (2.7 million hectares) burned in 2004, this year’s fire total is part of a trend.

Big fire years are more frequent as Alaska warms at a rate at least twice the global average. This is the 15th time in the past 80 years that more than 2 million acres (810,000 hectares)burned in a single season, and six of those years have been since 2000, said Tim Mowry, a spokesman for the Alaska Division of Forestry.

Especially remarkable are the ultra-dry and dangerous conditions in Alaska’s most populous region, with some wildfires breaking out this summer even within city limits.

“I’ve been here 40 years, and this is the most extreme fire condition here that I can remember,” said John See, a wildfire expert with the Anchorage Fire Department.

Until this year, there had never been a “severe drought” declaration for Anchorage in the two-decade history of the U.S. Drought Monitor. Anchorage and fire-stricken areas to the north and south of the city passed that threshold earlier this month and moved last week to the more serious “extreme” drought condition.

The fires are part of a summer of extremes in Alaska – record heat, lightning strikes in unlikely places, extraordinary meltdown of glaciers and widespread die-offs of animals, including whales, seals, birds and masses of pre-spawned salmon killed in waters with temperatures measured as high as 80 degrees F (26.7 C).

A late arrival of winter is almost a lock, said Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the University of Alaska Fairbank’s International Arctic Research Center.

“Even if our temperatures turned on a dime, there’s so much warmth in the water around Alaska that it is just going to take time for that to dissipate,” Brettschnider said.

After that, the winter ice that forms is likely to be thin, vulnerable to another early spring melt, leaving open waters to draw in more solar heat and feeding the warming cycle, he said.

(Reporting by Yereth Rosen; editing by Bill Tarrant and Sandra Maler)

Powerful earthquake rattles Alaska, no injuries reported

A stranded vehicle lies on a collapsed roadway near the airport after an earthquake in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Nathaniel Wilder

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – A powerful earthquake shook southern Alaska on Friday morning, buckling roads, disrupting traffic and knocking television stations off the air in the state’s largest city, but there were no immediate reports of injuries.

The 7.0 magnitude earthquake’s epicenter was 8.1 miles (13 km) north of Anchorage, home to about 40 percent of the state’s population. The temblor had a depth of 26.7 miles (43 km), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

A tsunami warning was issued for Cook Inlet, which links Anchorage with the Gulf of Alaska, but it was later canceled.

Earthquake damage is seen inside a store in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. November 30, 2018 in this image obtained from social media. David Harper/via REUTERS

Earthquake damage is seen inside a store in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. November 30, 2018 in this image obtained from social media. David Harper/via REUTERS

The quake, of a magnitude that is common in Alaska, was followed by numerous aftershocks, and climatologist Rick Thoman reported that he felt it in Fairbanks, about 350 miles north of Anchorage, a city of about 300,000 residents.

“Thought the house was going to come apart,” Anchorage-based climatologist Brian Brettschneider wrote on Twitter, posting a picture of his kitchen floor scattered with items that had fallen from cupboards.

Anchorage suffered major infrastructure damage, police said in a Twitter message, with homes and buildings damaged, and many roads and bridges are closed.

Rush-hour traffic in Anchorage came to a standstill and jammed up heading out of town after the quake struck at around 8:30 a.m. local time (1230 EST/1730 GMT).

Governor Bill Walker said he had issued a disaster declaration and was in direct contact with the White House, which said President Donald Trump was monitoring the situation.

The state has had an average of one magnitude 7 to 8 earthquake every year since 1900, according to the state government website, and the state has more earthquakes than any other U.S. region. Southern Alaska experienced the second largest earthquake ever recorded in 1964, which had a magnitude of 9.2.

Video posted on social media showed supermarkets with items from shelves strewn across the floors in the quake’s aftermath and of television station KTVA’s newsroom in shambles.

A photo posted by a reporter at KTVA showed a deserted showroom, with part of its ceiling collapsed and debris scattered throughout the room. CNN reported that television station KTUU, an NBC affiliate, also was knocked off the air.

A stranded vehicle lies on a collapsed roadway near the airport after an earthquake in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Nathaniel Wilder

A stranded vehicle lies on a collapsed roadway near the airport after an earthquake in Anchorage, Alaska, U.S. November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Nathaniel Wilder

KTUU’s website featured a photo of a snow-covered highway that had buckled, with a car sitting between two deep fissures crossing the highway.

The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport remained open, but arrivals and departure ramps were closed and there were reports of road damage, the airport said on Twitter.

The city’s schools were evacuated and parents were notified to pick up their children.

(Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Writing by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Russian warships hold drills in Bering Sea in huge military exercise

A satellite image of armored vehicles staging during the Russian military exercise known as Vostok 2018, conducted at the Tsugol training area in eastern Russia, September 13, 2018. Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company/Handout via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian warships held drills in the Bering Sea which separates Russia from Alaska, part of Moscow’s biggest military maneuvers since the fall of the Soviet Union, footage aired by the Ministry of Defence showed on Friday.

The Vostok-2018 (East-2018) drills, which run until Sept. 17, are taking place in Siberia and in waters off Russia’s eastern coast, involving 300,000 troops, over 1,000 military aircraft and two naval fleets.

The drills are taking place at a time of heightened tension between the West and Russia, and NATO has said it will monitor the exercise closely, as will the United States which has a strong military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

President Vladimir Putin inspected the war games on Thursday, vowing in a speech to soldiers to strengthen the Russian army and supply it with new generation weapons and equipment.

Putin said Russia was a peaceful country ready for cooperation with any state interested in partnership, but that it was a soldier’s duty to be ready to defend his country and its allies.

The Ministry of Defence aired footage on Friday of the Northern Fleet’s Vice-Admiral Kulakov destroyer and the Alexander Obrakovsky landing ship taking part in a mock-up rescue operation in the Bering Sea.

Other footage showed scores of paratroopers leaping from a plane and descending from helicopters by ropes in the eastern Siberian territory of Zabaikalsk.

The ministry also broadcast clips of missiles being launched from its S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system and its Buk medium-range missile system.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Osborn)