[We] thought we were being bombed!

[We] thought we were being bombed!

Anchorage snow fighter Jeannie Schenderline reports on life after Friday's 7.0 earthquake and the challenges for a service provider and employer.

December 3, 2018

Dealing With Snow In An Earthquake's Aftermath


EDITOR'S NOTE: Click the above for a photo slideshow. a

The entire team at JEFFCO Grounds Maintenance (JGM) was left shaken up -- both literally and figuratively -- after Friday morning's mega earthquake off the coast of Anchorage, Alaska.

Fortunately, the JGM team is safe and there was no major damage to their facility, reports company President Jeannie Schenderline.


"Many of us worked the night before, so our team had just gotten home and awoke by the earthquake within two hours of sleep," says Schenderline, a 2015 Leadership Award recipient. "Many of us thought we were being bombed – It’s war! By far the most frightening earthquake we have all experienced. Aftershocks have been very nerve racking, to say the least."

Nov. 30's magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck just seven miles north of Anchorage at 8:29 am, at a depth of about 27 miles. The earthquake caused power outages, damage to roads and buildings, and closures of schools, businesses and government offices. This was the largest earthquake to strike near Anchorage since the 2016 magnitude 7.1 Iniskin earthquake.

In the earthquake's wake, as retail clients briefly closed their doors to assess damages and restock, JGM was tasked with hauling away snow piles to clear additional parking space for the anticipated influx of people seeking supplies. Initial estimates had Anchorage residents preparing for as many as 1,000 aftershocks over the ensuing days.

"The entire population of Anchorage, Eagle River, Palmer, Soldotna, Wasilla ... had flocked to retail giant Fred Meyer to buy supplies for survival as none of us know what is to come," Schenderline says. "While our parking lots remain in demand with heavy population of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, we are deicing nightly for the safety of all store customers, managers, and employees.

"Luckily, the Port of Anchorage had no damage. Alaska is supplied by barges and tugs bringing goods across the water. Many items are trucked in here, also. Barging is by far the most utilized way to get any product into Alaska.”

In the hours after the main quake, Schenderline says everyone longed for a return to normalcy.

"We were experiencing aftershocks at a rate of more than three per hour all day long," she adds. "I finally decided it was best for me to remain at our facility because the ground is by far more stable than the ground at my house (which is near the water).

"I spent the entire day at the office doing invoices," she says, adding she's awaiting word that the North Eagle River Bridge is safe for truck traffic and the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) is prepared to receive  100 truckloads of snow from JGM's client sites. "It felt normal again because I only felt one aftershock at the shop that day." 

Schenderline is thankful the earthquake didn't happen during a major snow event, which would not be unusual for this time of year.

"That would have been a complete disaster," she says. "The actual quake lasted for 30 seconds, and within 13 seconds it was followed by [an aftershock] earthquake."

Closer to home, JGM has served as more than just the company’s headquarters. Employees whose families have been left without water have been invited to use the company’s laundry facility.

"We have some employees in Eagle River who don’t have water and have small children," she says. "So, they are bringing their laundry into our facility to wash and dry clothing as we have a washer and dryer in our shop

"The bottom line is my team is here for the company, so we will do whatever it takes to help each other get through this disaster," she adds.

Mike Zawacki is Snow Magazine's editor. You can reach him at mzawacki@gie.net