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Alaska quake Q&A: Geologists explain state's vulnerability
Published in 26-1-2016
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) A massive weekend earthquake in Alaska cracked a road, broke natural gas lines and destroyed four homes. The Earth's outermost shell is made up of tectonic plates that move, and Alaska is near the intersection of two great plates: the Pacific Plate, beneath the Pacific Ocean, and the North American Plate, which covers most of North America. According to prevailing models, friction locks up the two plates, building elastic energy until the strain is too great and there's an earthquake. Credit Alaska building codes for requiring commercial structures that roll with the punches caused by shifting tectonic plates. Alaska sees so many large quakes, West said, the state is often written off as a land of log cabins that can fend off major shakers. Besides the Denali Fault quake 90 miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska in June 2014 saw a magnitude-7.9 earthquake, but it was in the remote Aleutians 1,400 miles southwest of Anchorage. More than homes, an earthquake in the wrong place could damage Alaska infrastructure, such as ports or power transmission, rail or communication lines, which have far less redundancy than other states.