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Tsunami Watch canceled for Washington coast after 7.9 quake off Alaska

A 7.9 quake strikes in the Gulf of Alaska

SEATTLE -- The threat of a tsunami along the Washington coast in the wake of a 7.9 quake in the Gulf of Alaska has passed and a Tsunami Watch that had been in effect has been canceled.

NOAA says small waves of less than a foot were registered in some Alaskan coastal towns of Sitka, Kodiak and Seward, but no damage is expected. A Tsunami Warning was canceled for those Alaska towns, but an advisory remains in effect there.

Scientists say the type of quake meant there was less chance for a tsunami.

Paul Earle, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, says the earthquake was within the Pacific plate and was a so-called "strike-slip earthquake."

That's the type when one side of the fault slides past another fault, like the San Andreas fault in California.

In the Alaska earthquake, Earle says one side went more to the east and one side went more to the west.

He says that's somewhat unusual because quakes in the area are usually thrust earthquakes where one side goes underneath the other.

He says those are the type that cause more vertical motion and increase the chance for a tsunami.

NOAA says small waves of less than a foot were registered in some Alaskan coastal towns of Sitka, Kodiak and Seward, but no damage is expected. A Tsunami Warning was canceled for those Alaska towns, but an advisory remains in effect there.

A total of 21 aftershocks were recorded in the surrounding vicinity after the initial quake, according to the U.S. Geological Service website.

A tsunami watch had been issued for the Washington, Oregon and California coasts early Tuesday morning after the strong earthquake hit at 12:32 a.m. Alaskan time and was recorded about 175 miles southeast of Kodiak Island. Warnings from the National Weather Service sent to cellphones in Alaska warned: "Emergency Alert. Tsunami danger on the coast. Go to high ground or move inland."

Kodiak officials warned residents to evacuate if they lived in low-lying areas.

Lt. Tim Putney of the Kodiak Police Department said: "We haven't seen anything yet or had any reports of a wave."

However, officials told people to hold fast at evacuation centers until further notice. He said the town has several shelters above the 100-foot mark, and they were still encouraging people below that level to evacuate.

The earthquake woke Putney up out of a dead sleep, and he estimates it shook for at least 30 seconds.

"I've been Kodiak for 19 years that was the strongest, longest lasting one I've ever felt," he said by telephone.

But he said the police department has received no reports of damage.

The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said the quake was felt widely in several communities on the Kenai Peninsula and throughout southern Alaska, but it also had no immediate reports of damage. People reported on social media that the quake was felt hundreds of miles away, in Anchorage.

Kerry Seifert, an emergency management specialist in the state emergency operations center, said the center had not received any reports of damage as the timeline for initial waves reaching some communities had passed.

"This is almost too soon to be into it to get that kind of information," he said. "And certainly, communities are climbing hills, some of them."

Keith Perkins, who lives in the southeast Alaska community of Sitka, arrived at the high school early Tuesday morning, after an alarm on his cellphone alerted him of the tsunami warning. He says the city's sirens also went off later.

He said people on Facebook were chattering back and forth about whether this was real or not and what they should do.

Given the magnitude of the earthquake, Perkins said he thought it best to head to school, the tsunami evacuation point, even though in the past he felt his home was at a "high-enough spot."

"I figured I'd probably just better play it safe," he said.

He said police officers were directing traffic and the parking lot at the school was filling up. He said he saw some people carrying suitcases or backpacks. Perkins said he didn't bring anything along.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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