Yukon, Alaska, northern B.C. rocked by quake, then another

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit Yukon and Alaska at about 5:30 a.m. local time today, causing power outages and shaking people awake. The centre of the quake was in northern B.C.

Quakes centred in B.C.'s northwest, near Yukon border

Whitehorse's Riverside Grocery had some cleaning up to do after the city was shaken by two early morning earthquakes. The territorial government says there were no injuries reported. (Riverside Grocery/Facebook)

The Yukon government is taking stock of the damage from a couple of earthquakes that shook the territory early Monday morning. At least two buildings — a school and a Whitehorse office building — will remain closed Tuesday.

A magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit Yukon and Alaska at about 5:30 a.m. local time Monday, causing power outages, damaging buildings and shaking people awake.

Then another larger quake, magnitude 6.3, hit less than two hours later, about 7:20 a.m. PT. There were also a series of aftershocks.

The first quake hit in British Columbia's far northwest, near the B.C.-Yukon border, about 85 kilometres northwest of Skagway, Alaska, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, while the second hit about 80 kilometres west of Skagway.

Whitehorse residents told CBC News that they were falling out of their beds and dishes were coming down from shelves.

Debris tumbles from Whitehorse's clay cliffs after a quake. Whitehorse resident Angie Dickson took this photo after the second earthquake hit at 7:20 a.m. PT. (Angie Dickson)

The earthquakes were also felt in northern British Columbia.

"Incredible shaking felt in Whitehorse around 5:30 a.m. this morning," resident Jenni Beauregard said in an email to CBC, after the first quake. 

She said the tremors lasted about 30 seconds.

"Oh gee, I was laying in bed and I felt the double-wide place that I live in start to shake a bit, and I was wondering what was going on," Sheldon Miller told CBC News.

Thinking it was just strong winds, Miller headed to the window.

"There was no wind, but then it started shaking pretty violently. Nothing fell, but things did rumble and vibrate," he said.

"It was kind of scary."

'You might want to get under your desk'

The second quake came while B.C. seismologist Taimi Mulder was doing a live phone interview with CBC Radio host Sandi Coleman in Whitehorse. 

"You might want to get under your desk if it's still shaking," Mulder told Coleman.

Mulder said people could be feeling aftershocks throughout the day.

"You live in an earthquake prone part of the world."

Mulder said the 6.2 shake was felt throughout Yukon, though the centre was in northern B.C., not Alaska as earlier reported.

The quake hit in British Columbia's far northwest, near the B.C.-Yukon border, about 85 kilometres northwest of Skagway, Alaska, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. (CBC)

"I think you need to be prepared for potentially more seismicity on this fault. This could likely have been the biggest one that you might feel for now. It's possible you might get a bigger one."

Several aftershocks and smaller earthquakes were registered throughout the morning. 

'It took a good shaking'

Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Twitter Monday morning that the government was closely monitoring the situation in Whitehorse and emergency response was "on standby to help as required."

Yukon government officials were also taking stock of any damage to infrastructure, including roads and bridges, but by Monday afternoon had reported no major problems yet.

The Whitehorse airport appeared unaffected and flights were coming and going as scheduled, said Aisha Montgomery, with the Yukon government's protective services division.

At least one downtown building appeared to suffer damage — the Lynn building was evacuated and closed for the day. The territorial government, which rents the building, said it will remain closed until an engineer's report is reviewed. 

Paula Nugent, who works there, noticed long cracks on the outside of the building. She also saw damage inside before she had to leave.

"The stairwell has been compromised with huge cracks, there's plaster falling off the walls," she said. "It looks pretty scary in there.

"I work on the fourth floor, and there are cabinet doors open, there's plants fallen over, there's pictures on the floor — yeah, it took a good shaking," she said.

The Yukon government is inspecting all schools, and two were closed for the day — Elijah Smith Elementary School in Whitehorse and the Ross River School. Both suffered some structural damage, according to Holly Fraser with the territory's Education Department.

Elijah Smith will reopen on Tuesday, officials said, but the library will be closed because of broken windows. Ross River School will remain closed until a technical inspection can be done later this week.

St. Elias School in Haines Junction is showing some "superficial cracks," but it will remain open, the government said.

Whitehorse Elementary School was also closed for inspection Monday morning, but was reopened within hours. 

Power outages

The earthquakes also left thousands of people without power early Monday morning. ATCO Electric said 8,000 customers in Yukon were affected, most in the Whitehorse area, but also in the communities of Carcross and Teslin.

Those customers had power back within an hour of the first quake, but about 3,000 of them saw their power knocked out again after the second quake. That outage was also less than an hour for most customers.

Yukon Energy, meanwhile, checked its Whitehorse dam, substations and LNG plant for any damage on Monday morning, but has not reported any problems.

Yukon Energy CEO Andrew Hall said the company's new LNG plant is designed to withstand an earthquake.

With files from Sandi Coleman, Elyn Jones