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Reconnaissance engineering geology of the Petersburg area, southeastern Alaska, with emphasis on geologic hazards

January 1, 1978

A program to study the engineering geology of most larger Alaska coastal communities and to evaluate their earthquake and other geologic hazards was started following the 1964 Alaska earthquake; this report about the Petersburg area is a product of that program. Field-study methods were of a reconnaissance nature, and thus, interpretations in the report are tentative. Landscape of the northern end of Mitkof Island on which Petersburg is situated is characterized by a gently sloping, muskeg-covered terrain, with altitudes mostly less than 30 m. In contrast, much of the rest of the island is composed of mountainous terrain with many steep valleys.

During the Pleistocene Epoch, the Petersburg area presumably was covered by ice several times; glaciers deeply eroded many valleys on Mitkof Island and adjacent areas. The last major deglaciation probably was largely completed by 12,000 years ago. Delayed rebound of the earth's crust, after the melting of large amounts of ice, permitted extensive inundation of land in the Petersburg area. Subsequently, emergence has elevated marine deposits to a present-day altitude of at least 65 m and probably to 75 m.

Bedrock in the Petersburg map area is composed of relatively hard metamorphic rocks, chiefly phyllite and probably some graywacke. Rocks are of Middle(?) Jurassic to Early Cretaceous age. Five types of surficial geologic material of Quaternary age were recognized: (1) mixed deposits consisting of diamicton, silt-clay, and sand or sandy pebble gravel, (2) alluvial deposits, (3) shore and delta deposits, (4) organic deposits, and (5) artificial fill. Geologic structure in southeastern Alaska is complex because several cycles of tectonic deformation since at least early Paelozoic time have affected different parts of the region. The latest of the major tectonic events in southeastern Alaska occurred in Tertiary time, with some minor activity continuing into the Quaternary Period. Along the outer coast of southeastern Alaska, active strike-slip movement is occurring along the Chichagof-Baranof and Queen Charlotte faults. A segment of the prominent Coast-Range lineament, part of which may be a fault, lies 18 km northeast of Petersburg.

Many earthquakes occur along the outer coast of southeastern Alaska. Most of these shocks are associated with movements along the Chichagof-Baranof, Queen Charlotte, and Transition faults. A few small earthquakes occur in the region between the outer coast and the southern part of the Coast Mountains. 0nly a few earthquakes have been recorded as felt at Petersburg; these shocks and others possibly felt in the Petersburg region are tabulated. Among the recorded earthquakes the highest intensity (about V-VI) as the magnitude 7.1 earthquake of October 24, 1927, that occurred probably along the Chichagof-Baranof fault, and about 225 km northwest of Petersburg; damage was reported as minor. Other large earthquakes along the Chichagof-Baranof fault that affected or probably affected the Petersburg area in a minor way occurred on August 22, 1949 (magnitude 8.1) and on July 30, 1972 (magnitude 7.25).

From a consideration of the tectonics and earthquake history of the region, earthquakes similar to the 1927, 1949, and 1972 shocks are expected to recur on segments of the Chichagof-Baranof or Queen Charlotte faults. The closest of these fault segments is about 170 km southwest from Petersburg. The likelihood of destructive earthquakes being generated along faults closer to Petersburg is unknown.

A very generalized discussion of possible geologic effects that could occur in the area during a postulated, theoretically reasonable worst case earthquake of magnitude 8 occurring along the outer coast about 170 km southwest from Petersburg notes that ground shaking probably would be strongest on organic deposits and least on bedrock and on firm, compact diamicton. Among other effects that could happen are: (1) liquefaction of some of the few delta and alluvial

Publication Year 1978
Title Reconnaissance engineering geology of the Petersburg area, southeastern Alaska, with emphasis on geologic hazards
DOI 10.3133/ofr78675
Authors Lynn A. Yehle
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 78-675
Index ID ofr78675
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse