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Earthquake Shreds Highways and Sows Panic in South Central Alaska

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ANCHORAGE — It lasted just 30 seconds. But that was enough on Friday morning for a magnitude-7 earthquake to rip open roads, send streetlights crashing to the ground and leave Alaska’s quake-hardened residents panicked and reeling.

And it sent Kelsey Green sprawling to the floor.

At her office in Anchorage, where she works for the Girl Scouts of Alaska, windows shattered and ceiling tiles rained down. When it was over, Ms. Green and her co-workers ran outside into a world that had been shaken up like a snow globe. There was now a 50-foot crack in the parking lot.

“I’ve never experienced an earthquake like this,” said Ms. Green, 27, a fourth-generation Alaskan. “It rattled me to my core.”

While there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries, officials said the quake had crippled southern Alaska’s infrastructure and could take weeks or longer to repair. Highways were partly swallowed up by the snowy earth. Around 40,000 people were left without power and there were widespread reports of collapsed and damaged buildings and bridges, and broken water lines.

Earthquakes are such a fact of life in Anchorage — the most seismically active region in the country — that schools regularly drill students on preparedness and people’s grandparents trade stories about surviving the destructive 1964 earthquake, whose 9.2 magnitude was the second-highest ever recorded.

But many people said Friday’s earthquake, which was centered about nine miles north of Anchorage, felt longer and more intense than anything in recent memory.

The chaos began at 8:29 a.m. Nadja Josey, 13, was in her first-period class at Hanshew Middle School when her teacher told the class to hide under their tables. Nadja was hit on her hand and ankle by falling parts of the ceiling before she could take cover.

“Everyone was screaming and crying,” Nadja said. “And the water sprinklers, they activated themselves, so it’s wet and dusty everywhere.”

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Merchandise fell off the shelves at a store in Anchorage.CreditDavid Harper, via Associated Press

She went outside with classmates and borrowed a phone to call her mother; her phone was trapped in the rubble upstairs.

“I heard her voice and I just started crying,” Nadja said. “I was like ‘Mom, I got stuck under there, it hurt really bad. My fingers hurt.’”

At Alaska Regional Hospital, nurses checked on patients as ceiling tiles dropped. In an Anchorage courthouse, a video showed a woman hiding under a desk as the entire room rocked like a ship in a storm.

Adam Cardwell, 55, was still asleep in his cabin outside the community of Willow when pictures and pans flew off the walls and books and dishes crashed to the ground. The shaking was so violent that Mr. Cardwell said he could not even get out of bed. So he used his body to shield his pit bull mix, Star, and they waited for the shaking to stop.

“Seemed like forever,” he said.

His cabin survived, but Mr. Cardwell said that the day of rolling aftershocks had left him nauseated and dizzy. His phone pinged every time earthquake monitors recorded a new aftershock. He counted 22 in three hours.

Officials in Anchorage said they were only just beginning to assess the scale of the damage. Gov. Bill Walker declared a disaster, and President Trump said that Alaska had been hit by “a big one” and pledged to spare no expense for rebuilding.

But Mr. Walker commended the region for its preparedness and emergency response, noting that the earthquake did not cause the kind of loss of life seen in other, similar-size quakes.

Kristin DeSmith, communications director for the Anchorage mayor’s office, said the city had set up an emergency operations headquarters. “We have some reports of structure damage,” she said. But she said communications had been difficult. “We’re just getting information now.”

Across Anchorage and its suburbs, people coped with major power outages and tried to get through to friends and family on jammed, downed phone networks.

After Ms. Green fled the shattered glass and destruction at her office, she went to check on her grandmother. The four-mile drive took two hours. By late morning, she was stuffing clothes, water and food into an emergency kit and trying to figure out how she would make it to her home in the Mat-Su Valley, 35 miles away.

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A United States Geological Survey map showing the location of the quake.CreditUsgs/EPA, via Shutterstock

“I’m stranded,” she said. “Half of the highway is missing.”

Just finding food and gasoline was a slog. Many grocery stores closed after the earthquake flung their goods to the floor. Some gas stations and still-open businesses were only accepting cash, Ms. Green said.

The quake could hamper Alaska’s oil industry, which supplies West Coast refineries. The Alyeska company shut down the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline as a precaution, although there were no immediate reports of leaks or other damage. The company set no timetable for restarting the network.

The pipeline transports more than half a million barrels a day across the state, representing about 4 percent of national oil output.

The United States Geological Survey said the quake was centered across the Cook Inlet estuary, at a depth of about 25 miles. A tsunami warning was issued for Cook Inlet, but there were no reports of one.

Much of Alaska lies in what geophysicists call a subduction zone, where one of the earth’s huge surface plates is slowly sliding beneath another. In Alaska, the Pacific plate is sliding toward the northwest beneath the North American plate at a rate of about two inches per year — about the speed at which a fingernail grows.

That sliding, or subduction, leads to friction between the two plates that can build up until it is released in what is called a megathrust earthquake. These can be very large. The last megathrust earthquake in Alaska, the 1964 quake that was centered southeast of Anchorage near Prince William Sound, killed about 130 people.

The quake on Friday was not as powerful because the mechanism was not the same.

Peter Haeussler, a geophysicist with the United States Geological Survey in Anchorage, said it was an “intraslab” quake, which occurs within the Pacific plate where it bends downward as it slides beneath the North American plate. That bending causes stress that can result in a rupture of the earth.

Dr. Haeussler likened it to bending a Snickers bar until the top coating breaks apart.

He got a close-up view as he drove to work on Friday morning. He had been stopped at a gas station, and said his car moved around so much that the transmission was temporarily damaged.

Todd Woody, who works for an environmental organization, had just finished breakfast at his condo on the east side of the city, near the University of Alaska campus.

“It grew pretty quickly,” he said of the shaking. “It was really scary. I’ve lived here 22 years and never felt anything like this before.”

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster

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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

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Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”

References

  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (www.nytimes.com)

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake

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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.

References

  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (akleg.gov)

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes

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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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