The Dogs Went Wild, And Cantwell People Could Hear 5.5 Quake That Hit On Morning Of April 8th

A major 5.5 magnitude earthquake was reported at 9:10 am on Thursday, April 8th, 2021. The quake was located near Cantwell, at the end of th...

A major 5.5 magnitude earthquake was reported at 9:10 am on Thursday, April 8th, 2021. The quake was located near Cantwell, at the end of the Denali Highway south of Denali National Park. The quake was very shallow: only 0.4 miles deep.
The Denali Fault (Alaska Earthquake Center) 

It was considered a relatively "big one." According to the U.S. Geological Survey, which posted a report on the quake 8 minutes after it occurred: "Based on the preliminary seismic data, the quake should have been widely felt by almost everyone in the area of the epicenter."

To find out if people in Cantwell felt it, the Copper River Country Journal called Carol Croteau, who operates Backwoods Lodge in Cantwell near the junction of the Denali Highway and the Parks Highway. 

It was around an hour or so after the quake, and Carol was still rattled. She told the Journal

"I certainly did feel it. It was loud and it was pretty quick. First I thought it was just snow falling off the roof. And the dogs were pretty freaked out. You could hear the rumbling. I thought it was a jet flying over. You're kind of stunned with the loud noise. And the whole house shook." Fortunately, there was no damage, Carol said. "No pictures fell or nothing like that. "

Also in Cantwell, fishing guide Rick McMahan reported to the Journal:

"We shook pretty good for 30 seconds. Biggest since I've been here. I didn't hear much except my dog whining! He didn't like it one bit."

Cantwell Is An Ahtna Village
Cantwell has historic ties to the Copper River Valley. Before the Parks Highway was built in the 1970's, the major roads in Alaska were the Glenn and Richardson Highways. 

The settlement of Paxson, with its roadhouse and small cluster of DOT buildings, was the entrance to the Denali Highway from the Richardson Highway,  on the east. The original Paxson roadhouse was built in 1906 by Alvin Paxson. It was a tiny cabin and two tents. After years of popularity, growing into a hunting camp and then a large wooden roadhouse, Paxson finally closed permanently a number of years ago. 

Before there even was a "Denali Highway", the town of Cantwell, in spite of its distance from the rest of the Copper Valley, was historically connected to Gulkana Village by an ancient trail that started at Bear Creek near Gulkana. So Cantwell is (along with Mentasta, Chistochina, Gulkana, Gakona, Tazlina, Copper Center and Chitina) an "Ahtna village." 

The little settlement of Cantwell bookends the Denali with Paxson on one end and Cantwell on the other. Cantwell is the western end of the 140 mile long Denali Highway, on the Parks. 

At one time, the Denali Highway was the only way to drive to Denali National Park, and the Copper Valley was considered "the route to Mt. McKinley" because you had to travel the Richardson to get to Paxson. 

Denali Fault Quake Of 2002
Alaska has its own San Andreas Fault -- the Denali Fault. 

The Denali Highway loosely follows the fault line, which went mostly unnoticed for a long time. 

Then, one winter almost 20 years ago, the Denali Fault made itself known in a big way.

Scientists rushed to the Denali Highway in November, 2002, after a huge 7.9 magnitude earthquake split the snowy earth for 209 miles. The quake rattled Cantwell, Paxson and Mentasta, tearing open the highways. Scientists say it was very similar to the San Francisco Quake of 1906 – so they wanted to study it.  

Although massive landslides were triggered, and whole mountaintops slid into the valleys below, damage was limited because most of the quake was in wilderness.

The quake of 2002 was, nevertheless, pretty spectacular. It started at the Susitna Glacier Thrust fault, which the University of Alaska Earthquake Center describes as "previously unrecognized." It was the biggest inland earthquake to hit North America in 150 years. After it was over, there were more than 1,000 aftershocks. 

And there were slides everywhere. Repercussions were noted as far away as Texas, Louisiana, Washington, California and Utah. 


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