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Big earthquake on Canada-Alaska border jolts faraway lawmakers awake

USGS map

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A magnitude-6.2 earthquake near the Canada-Alaska border jarred people awake, including lawmakers in the state capital, and set off a series of aftershocks, including a magnitude-6.3, officials said.

The initial quake roused state Rep. Charisse Millett from her sleep in Juneau, 134 miles (216 kilometers) from the epicenter in British Columbia. The shaking knocked plastic dishware off her counters and made for a jolting start to her week.

“I am wide awake and super tired now,” said the Anchorage Republican, who has experienced her share of earthquakes but is used to them being shorter.

It’s not uncommon for an aftershock to be larger than the triggering quake, though normally the following quakes are smaller, U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Amy Vaughan said. Other aftershocks ranged from magnitudes 2 to 5.

They struck roughly 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of the tiny Alaska town of Mosquito Lake and about 83 miles (134 kilometers) southwest of Whitehorse, Canada.

Vaughan said the shallow initial quake had the potential to cause damage but that the remote location dropped the chances of major problems.

Juneau emergency programs manager Tom Mattice said he received no reports of damage.

Rep. Scott Kawasaki, who says he sleeps in his Capitol office at least twice a week to get work done, also was jolted awake.

The Fairbanks Democrat said he was trying to fall back asleep on the couch when the second quake hit. A video he posted on Twitter showed liquid shaking in an energy drink bottle on a table.

He said he was reminded of the recent renovation of the Capitol, meant to fortify it against earthquakes.

“I was thinking about all the construction work that went into the Capitol, specifically on seismic control,” he said. “So I’m glad the Capitol didn’t fall into the channel.”

Jaimie Lawson, a 911 dispatcher with the Skagway Police Department, said the town 55 miles (89 kilometers) away from the quake did not receive reports of damage or injuries from the initial shaking.

Computers slid around in the mobile home that houses police operations in the valley town of 800, she said, and it was the first earthquake she felt that forced her to stand up to get her bearings.

She said she had spoken to police in the town of Haines about 30 miles south and they also had not gotten reports of injuries or damage from the first quake.

The geological survey website recorded hundreds of reports of people feeling the shaking.