Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Alaska Earthquake Coverage. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 30, 2018 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:05]

JULIE SEIBERT, EARTHQUAKE VICTIM: I was actually -- just got out of the shower. And I was like -- it actually, like, dropped me to my knees. I couldn't stand anymore...

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wow.

SEIBERT: ... or try to get downstairs because of the shaking going on.

So it's a very interesting feeling, and during when it's happening, you don't know how long it's going to happen. It feels like an eternity in the moment, but it was definitely quite a jolt.

BALDWIN: It's the jolt and then it's -- we have clocked 15 aftershocks is what our meteorologist just told us. I know that's something you're dealing with as well.

Last question. I hear you're a teacher and I know, as you just described, you were still at home. But I hear you talked to some of the other teacher friends. How are they doing? How are the kids doing in those classrooms?

SEIBERT: Yes, it was a really traumatizing experience for the kids and for the teachers.

You know, we train for these of drills, as teachers, all the time. And when you're in the moment, it's just -- it's tough to try to figure out what's the best -- or what's the best thing to do.

But I know that all the teachers that I have spoken to, they said that they are safe and their students are safe, but they just had ceiling tiles falling and part of their classroom walls that were starting to rip open.

And I know that that situation you go through with your kids, nothing can everyone prepare you exactly for what that's going to be like.

BALDWIN: No. It's like you run through these drills and you run through these drills. And you yourself, I'm sure, as a grown woman, as a teacher, you're frightened, but you don't want to show that to the young people in the classroom.

Where are they now? Since we have heard from the Anchorage School District that they have closed all schools, are they getting all those kids home?

SEIBERT: As far as I have heard, so kids that were at school were asked to go home.

And it seems like, from what I have heard, that most of the kids have gone back home safely at this time.

BALDWIN: OK. Julie Seibert, thank you for jumping on the phone with me. I appreciate it. Stay well. At least you're all right, but certainly rattled, as everyone is.

AS we're getting these pictures, we want to take a moment just to show you the videos of this moment that the earthquake actually hit. You will see first pictures inside of this courtroom, and then you will see pictures from inside this one woman's home.

Allison Chinchar, our meteorologist, you hear these descriptions. One woman I spoke with said she's lived in Alaska for 37 years, never felt anything as violent. But it's not just the Anchorage area. How widespread is the damage?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. It's pretty widespread.

And one thing to note when she talked about, that one thing to also consider, this was a rather long-lasting earthquake. It looks like it puts it at about a minute-and-a-half, give or take, of shaking. According to the University of Utah, most of these large-scale earthquakes only last about 30 seconds.

So that would mean this particular earthquake was actually on the longer end of that scale. That also can contribute to the damage, because the longer you have that violent shaking, the more time it has to actually trigger some damage.

And, again, when you talk about the area here, look at all this. We're now up to 16 aftershocks after the initial 7.0 quake. When you talk about the area that felt it, it actually spreads out pretty wide. We're talking as far away as 400 miles people felt some type of shaking.

But the concern really becomes this yellow and orange shaded area. This is where people felt strong or severe shaking, again, that violent shaking in shaking, in buildings, in homes, in other types of infrastructure that's really throughout many of those locations.

[15:05:07]

Again, we talked about it. Here's a look. This is what we call the seismograph. This kind of shows the shaking that takes place. This red area right here, this was the 7.0 that we talked about. It's hard to see, but each one of these lines is typically about a minute. So that's how we can kind of gauge the scale here in terms of how long this actually took.

And, again, we figure it took about a minute and a half, give or take, again, the initial quake here being a 7.0, depth of about 40 kilometers. That's give or take about 25 miles. That may seem like that's very deep to you. But in terms of earthquake terms, that really isn't. Anything that 70 kilometers or less than that is considered a shallow earthquake.

And the shallower ones are the ones that typically cause more significant damage. Now, here's a look. We talked about those areas that felt it, the strong and very strong. So it wasn't just folks that live, say, in downtown Anchorage that felt some of that strong shaking.

Some of those surrounding areas, Wasilla, Fishhook, some of those communities also felt that rough shaking. One other thing to note. The USGS also puts out what we call pager colors to indicate how much of an impact this particular earthquake could have.

And they have given a yellow pager for the estimated economic impacts. Basically, what that means is they take into account roadways that have significant damage. And we have already seen video of sinkholes and areas of ramps and roadways that have been damaged.

But it also takes into account the buildings, the infrastructure that is likely to be impacted by this, and not just the initial quake. We mentioned there's been 16 aftershocks with this particular earthquake.

There's likely to be even more than that. When you have an earthquake that's an initial magnitude of 7.0, Brooke, you can even get one that's a magnitude 6.0 or higher. It's very likely after a quake like this.

So, again, the concern going forward for a lot of these people is really going to be those aftershocks.

BALDWIN: Quick question. I'm just curious, because everyone I have spoken to says this is the worst, most violent quake they have felt. They just had a 7.9 in January. Why does this feel so much worse?

CHINCHAR: So it could be a couple of different factors. That one could have been significantly deeper, it could have been farther away from where these communities are that these people live.

The further away you live from the epicenter, the less of an impact you're likely to feel. The deeper an earthquake, the less likely. So, again, I don't know where those specific people live in reference to that previous one.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CHINCHAR: But there's a lot of factors that get involved. This one was really close to downtown, so you likely have a lot more people in that heavily populated area that were able to feel this.

And, again, this was, in relative terms, a shallow earthquake. Those typically will cause some significant damage. And, as I mentioned, this one lasted about a minute-and-a-half. In terms of earthquakes, that's on the longer end of the scale, and that will also cause some more significant damage as well. BALDWIN: Can you imagine 90 entire seconds as everything around you

is rattling, and you're ducking for cover, and you don't know what is happening next? I just -- I feel for everyone who's gone through this.

I talked to Kristin Dossett at a second ago. This is part of my conversation with her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTIN DOSSETT, EARTHQUAKE VICTIM: That was the most violent earthquake I have ever felt. It was absolutely terrifying.

BALDWIN: Describe it for me. When you say violent, what does that feel like?

DOSSETT: It shook like I have never felt anything shake before. I mean, it was -- it just didn't stop. It just kept going. And it got louder and then louder.

And then things just fell everywhere, just everything off my dresser, off my bookcases, my kitchen cupboard, the broken glass everywhere, photos off the walls, very violent feeling.

BALDWIN: And your husband, he's not home. Is he -- is he stuck in traffic? How's he doing?

DOSSETT: He is on his way home from Anchorage. He is stuck in traffic. They had to close one of the main bridges out of Anchorage, so they're routing everybody through the town of Eagle River back onto the highway, because the bridge over the river has been damaged.

And then one of the bridges in Peters Creek on the side heading into Anchorage has collapsed and blocked the road. And there's sinkholes on the highway as well.

BALDWIN: Wow.

So, maybe a minute, Kristin, until you see your sweet husband come home.

When we talk about this 7.0-magnitude quake, you say it's the most violent quick you felt in three-plus decades. We also have been reporting these aftershocks. We have eight reported aftershocks. What have those felt like, how severe?

DOSSETT: They're not real severe. You can hear things rattling.

Like, when I was on hold with you guys, we had two of them. Things just start to rattle and they start to shake a little bit. And you get a little scared because you just don't know how big it's going to be.

BALDWIN: What does it sound like?

DOSSETT: Like somebody is just shaking everything in your house, literally. Your house is just saving. Everything -- anything and everything is rattled. And it's hard to describe.

[15:10:00]

My piano moved a foot-and-a-half away from the wall. And, oh, there's another aftershock right there.

BALDWIN: You just felt an aftershock just now?

DOSSETT: Yes, we just had another one. I have a lantern that kind of rattles. And every time there's one, it rattles and makes noise.

So, yes, it's just -- it's horrible. It's absolutely horrible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Kristin Dossett, thank you for calling in.

This is also affecting air travel coming and going out of Anchorage. Here is a little bit of audio from air traffic control tower.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FedEx, go around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that for FedEx?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tower, FedEx 49.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: FedEx 49, heavy, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going around, FedEx 49.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Attention all aircraft, there was an earthquake here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aircraft, we're evacuating the TRACON for an earthquake, and, everybody, stand by.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Rene Marsh is our CNN aviation correspondent.

Rene, I got to say, a woman on the other end saying there's been an earthquake here was a pretty cool cucumber. I don't know I would have acted as calmly, but that's -- they're the professionals. I mean, that is just a glimpse into what they were dealing with on the ground as they're communicating with planes trying to land.

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Right. Absolutely.

And we believe that that audio that we just heard there's the first transmissions from the moment when this earthquake was striking there in Alaska and at the airport. We know in the moments after that the control tower had to be evacuated. We also know that operations at that airport, Ted Stevens Anchorage

International Airport, came to a complete halt. At a certain point flights that were bound for this airport, that were in the air, they were being diverted. Flights that were bound to the airport that had not taken off yet, they were under a ground stop.

I just got a text message from the FAA, slight development as far as operations there. They say that the control tower is operating now, however, only departures. so there's still not allowing flights to come in and land. However, planes are flying out now. They're at Ted Stevens Airport there in Anchorage, Alaska.

So, Brooke, obviously very tense moments there, but the key issue for them is going to be assessing the damage there at the airport. We are getting information from Alaska Airlines. They say that they are suspending all their operations at this particular airport, simply because they want to do a thorough safety assessment to see where the damage is as it relates to their facilities.

Obviously, you have runways, you have taxiways, and you have other infrastructure there at the airport that they want to make sure is safe for these flights before they resume operations fully.

So that's where things stand there as far as air travel in and out of Alaska, but clearly good news that departures are happening, but, again, flights not being allowed to come in just yet.

BALDWIN: Got it. Rene, thank you for keeping us posted as far as the air travel is concerned there.

Coming up, we will talk to someone in Anchorage who can't leave her home, and a USGS seismologist will join me live.

Stand by. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN's special live coverage of the earthquake in Alaska.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:18:23]

BALDWIN: In-home security camera capturing another family there screaming as this earthquake, the 7.0-magnitude, lasted 90 excruciating seconds, as people were taking cover and sheltering in place.

Melissa Lohr is on the phone with me. Melissa's in Anchorage.

And, Melissa, are you all right, first and foremost?

MELISSA LOHR, EARTHQUAKE VICTIM: Yes, we are all OK up here in Alaska up here.

BALDWIN: OK, OK, good deal.

It's my understanding you cannot leave your home because of this earthquake. Can you tell me why? LOHR: We just can't get out the gate closest to us because the bridge is shut down due to a sinkhole forming under us, I was told by like the gate guard.

BALDWIN: So you're near a huge sinkhole, so you're stuck for the time being?

LOHR: Basically, everything is gridlocked. There's just a lot of traffic and it's just best to stay home.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: How was it this morning? Are you home alone?

LOHR: No. We have actually got some neighbors here hanging out.

I was actually on my way to work this morning in downtown Anchorage, and all the streetlights cut off, and just -- the cars just started. I mean, it was getting rock. You could just see everyone kind of -- all the cars around you throw their hazards on. And nobody really knew what was going on. It was really scary.

BALDWIN: And then the aftershock came pretty quickly after that, too. I heard you guys report that it was only about 90 seconds, but, it felt like five or six minutes.

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Yes, I bet I did. I bet I did.

LOHR: It was a long...

BALDWIN: Did I see your video on Twitter? Are you the Southerner living in Alaska who'd never felt an earthquake before me?

LOHR: That's me, yes.

BALDWIN: That's you.

[15:20:01]

So, as this fellow Southerner -- as your fellow Southerner, I have never felt one. Can you help me understand what the heck it felt like?

Describe it for me.

LOHR: Honestly, there's no way to describe because you just are kind of in shock when the whole thing happens.

And for someone who's never felt it, it took several -- it felt like several minutes it took to register what was going on. And then, as it all is happening very quickly, everyone is calling each other. Everyone's making sure everyone's OK.

People were like getting out of their cars. (CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: And it's cold. It's snowy. I'm looking at pictures. I mean, snow, ice. Were you were you slipping and sliding?

LOHR: Yes, it felt like my car was uncontrollably sliding right and right. And I just didn't understand because it was going perfectly fine up until then.

And the ground just -- I felt like the ground was going to open up underneath you. It was just...

BALDWIN: Oh my gosh.

LOHR: Lights were flying. It was very dark. It was crazy.

BALDWIN: And the aftershocks, Melissa. I think we're up to counting 16. Are they just blips compared to that initial earthquake? Or can you feel them?

LOHR: We can feel most of them.

I felt the very first aftershock right as I had crossed over the bridge that is now closed. And it felt like another earthquake. But we have felt several shakes just kind of sitting on the couches, keeping up with CNN.

The aftershocks are just -- they're terrifying, because you don't know what -- if they're going to be smaller or it's going to be another big quake.

BALDWIN: Melissa Lohr, Southerner in Alaska experiencing her first quake. And what a quake it was.

Thank you so much for jumping on the phone with me, hanging out with some of her neighbors in her house because she's stuck because of the traffic and a sinkhole out of the gate where she lives.

Thank you for jumping on with me.

Gavin Hayes is a research seismologist from the USGS.

And, Gavin, I want to get into her point about feeling those aftershocks, but first and foremost 7.0-magnitude put, put that in perspective for us.

GAVIN HAYES, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY: Well, 7.0 is pretty large.

And because it's quite close to Anchorage -- it's about 40 kilometers deep and just about 10 kilometers to the north -- so an event of that size is going to cause very strong to severe shaking in Anchorage. And that's what these reports are playing out.

BALDWIN: I think maybe that's part of the reason why people in the Anchorage, Alaska, area felt it so, so deeply, is because it was so close to them in a way that maybe other earthquakes were not. How far out do people feel this? Do you know?

HAYES: I don't know off the top of my head.

It's probably over a couple of hundred kilometers people would have still felt this earthquake. So the further away you are, the less severe the shaking is. That's why it's so severe in Anchorage, but it would have been fell over quite a broad area.

BALDWIN: And how many aftershocks do they have to endure?

HAYES: There will be dozens over the coming days to weeks.

BALDWIN: Dozens.

(CROSSTALK)

HAYES: Dozens, yes.

And so we have recorded about 30 aftershocks so far, most of them quite small. The chances of a magnitude 6.0 or above aftershock, it's somewhere in the region of 25 percent. Chances of a magnitude 5.0 and above aftershock are very high. And earthquakes of about 3.0 and above, if they're immediately beneath Anchorage, it will probably be felt.

So people will be feeling a lot of aftershocks over the coming days to weeks.

BALDWIN: Not to totally geek out, but what causes an aftershock? Can you explain? You have the first initial quake, but what triggers each and every aftershock?

HAYES: The first thing that we should say is that aftershocks are still earthquakes.

BALDWIN: OK.

HAYES: Like the main shock, they're still an earthquake in their own right. But all of these aftershocks are just smaller events around that main shock, as those faults kind of reorganize their stresses.

So they're all related to the same phenomenon. Most of those aftershocks are just going to be smaller than the main shock.

BALDWIN: And how often do earthquakes happen in Alaska? Is it fairly frequent?

HAYES: Very frequently.

Earthquakes this close to Anchorage are obviously not very frequent. But it's a plate boundary. It's a massive subduction zone. And so big earthquakes are fairly common in this region. We saw a massive 9.2 earthquake in 1964. Earthquakes of that size occur along this plate boundary over a decade or to century time scales.

And so they get -- big earthquakes are likely in this region.

BALDWIN: At least initially this morning, that was additional that worry about a tsunami warning, but that's since been lifted, so at least that's good news.

And so far, we haven't heard any reports of injuries or fatalities as a result, just really frightening for a lot of people in the Anchorage, Alaska area.

Gavin, thank you very much for the science of some of this.

HAYES: Thank you.

BALDWIN: I appreciate you.

We should also mention the president of the United States, who, as you know, is in Argentina for the G20 summit, just tweeted this: "To the great people of Alaska, you have been hit hard by a big one. Please follow the directions of the highly trained professionals who are there to help you. Your federal government will spare no expense. God bless you all" -- from Trump.

[15:25:10]

Next, we're now hearing the Pentagon -- from the Pentagon about military bases. And we will take you back inside this one TV newsroom in the Anchorage area where the damage is quite significant.

Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: In the wake of this 7.0-magnitude earthquake in the Anchorage, Alaska, area, there has been one military base significantly impacted.