Alaska credit unions closed, assessing damage after major earthquake
Credit unions in Alaska are assessing the damage after a major earthquake hit near Anchorage, the state’s largest city, early Friday morning.
The quake had a magnitude of 7.0 on the Richter scale, striking at 8:29 A.M. local time. It was followed a few minutes later by an aftershock measuring 5.7 that hit just north of Anchorage. A tsunami warning for the Cook Inlet and Kenai Peninsula was subsequently issued but cancelled later in the day.
According to a report from the Alaska Earthquake Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the earthquake caused power outages, damage to roads and buildings, and closures of schools, businesses and government offices. The Anchorage International Airport reported water mains were ruptured, and the headquarters of Alaska Railroad reported damage and flooding. Three fires were reported in the city of Anchorage.
There were no early reports of any casualties.
The Alaska Earthquake Center warned local residents to expect a “vigorous aftershock sequence.”
A statement Friday from the Alaska Credit Union League said the majority of the CUs near Anchorage were closed for the day following the quake.
“At this time they are assessing the damage and focusing on the overall operations while making sure that all decisions on reopening take into account the safety of their employees and members,” league officials said.
There are 10 active federally insured credit unions in Alaska, with three of them based in Anchorage. Among them, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union and Credit Union 1 issued notices on their Facebook pages Friday that branches would remain closed for safety reasons, but account access and other services would not be impacted.
Credit Union 1 noted that it would still be posting mobile deposits, and incoming wire ad ACH transfers Friday, but those postings would be delayed. Outgoing wire transfers are not expected to be completed until Monday.
Across the country, St. Petersburg, Fla.-based PSCU late Friday said its contact centers were seeing “elevated call volume” for its owner credit unions based in Alaska as a result of the earthquake. The credit union service organization said it was “prepared to continue fielding extra call volume throughout the weekend and beyond, and we will continue to stay in close contact with our credit unions there. Our contact centers are staffed to handle the additional volume.”
Justin Browning, managing VP of call center operations for PSCU, told Credit Union Journal the credit unions in Anchorage are “going through some difficult times.”
“PSCU is stepping in to help those credit unions. This is a benefit to being part of a cooperative – we can take care of their members so they can concentrate on taking care of their loved ones,” he said.
According to Browning, PSCU services “a few” credit unions in Alaska, but he did not have the exact number. As of Friday afternoon, he did not yet have information on branch damage or closures, but he said passing on such notices would be part of the mission for the company’s call centers over the weekend.
“We are stepping in so credit union members can obtain information on the status of branches, as well as financial needs such as deposits or transfers, or even verify funds in the account so they have information during this event. We are nimble enough to shift resources around to handle this additional volume, or have people work overtime.”
Officials looking for infrastructure damage
FEMA Region 10, the part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that serves Alaska along with Washington, Oregon and Idaho, was warning residents to expect aftershocks. The agency noted while usually less violent than the initial jolt, secondary shockwaves can cause damage to buildings that were weakened by the main temblor.
On the Anchorage Police Department’s Twitter feed, the APD reported damage to bridges and more, including some portions of the Glenn highway that have “sunken in and completely disappeared. air.”
Further tweets from the APD noted emergency responders were using aviation assets of the Alaska State Troopers to perform damage assessments.
History of earthquakes
This was the largest quake to strike Alaska in 2 years, officials said.
Per historical information from the Alaska Earthquake Center, earthquakes are common in Alaska due to the fact the Pacific tectonic plate is pushing under the North American plate, a process known as subduction. Two of the eight largest earthquakes ever recorded have rattled Alaska: the 1964 magnitude 9.2 Good Friday Earthquake and the 1965 magnitude 8.7 Rat Islands Earthquake.
In 2014, an all-time high of more 40,000 earthquakes were recorded in Alaska. There have been more than 150,000 earthquakes in Alaska over the last 5 years, with 31 of those having magnitudes of 6 or greater, and four with magnitudes of at least 7.