By Art Nash, Energy Specialist, UAF Cooperative Extension
Did you feel the shaker on the last day of November? Though it was only a 7.0 earthquake, its effects were noticed, especially in the Mat-Su Valley and Anchorage.
After a quake, people mostly look at buildings to check for damage. Those of us who have been in Alaska several decades may have memories of trees swaying from side to side, almost touching the ground, without permanent damage. You may see the effects above ground before anyone finds problems below the surface. Sometimes, the real damage results in new wells being put in, freshly installed septic lines or radiant heat lines replaced below the cement floor slab.
In the very beginning of December, many in Anchorage saw large amounts of dark, tan sand coming through the faucet. This was most likely sediment that could have come from the pipes or possibly it was soil making it through all the filters you have. One person I heard from in the Mat-Su area said his toilet was filled with black water, which could very well be from the shaking of manganese or other minerals that became concentrated in one area or flush. These are not necessarily harmful as the result of an acute event, but then again the one-time event may have opened up a reserve of contaminants.
Often it is not what is in the water but what the water hits that causes the most heartache in such a disaster. Copper pipes that are tweaked can result in a drip or spray from the solder of copper joints, and water can accumulate inside of a wall containing pipes. Under the best of conditions, such a drip may create a small pool of water, while soaking your studs and eventually the drywall. At worst, the leak could weaken the drywall and cause it to be a breeding ground for mold on the inside of the wall. Either way, after an earthquake, you want to find any leaks caused by pipes with loose joints to keep your home dry and healthy — for the house and for you!
The Alaska Earthquake Center shows recent earthquake events at www.earthquake.alaska.edu. The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management provides a website at http://bit.ly/2E4Ti7N to help you learn how to live with earthquake hazards. Reducing your risk of injury while mitigating property damage from an earthquake starts with these eight steps:
1. Create a seven-day disaster kit.
2. Identify potential hazards and begin to fix them.
3. Create a disaster-preparedness plan.
4. Identify your building’s potential weaknesses and begin to fix them.
5. Protect yourself during earthquake shaking.
6. After the quake, check for injuries and damage.
7. When safe, continue to follow your disaster-preparedness plan.
8. Know the faults in your area.
Art Nash is the Extension energy and radon specialist for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. Contact him at (907)474-6366 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.