Alaska residents react to tsunami warning after earthquake

Kodiak school superintendent Larry Ledeoux speaks out on "GMA" about how residents in Kodiak are reacting after an earthquake off Alaska's coast triggered tsunami warnings.
4:56 | 01/23/18

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Transcript for Alaska residents react to tsunami warning after earthquake
breaking news, a massive earthquake off the coast of Alaska. 7.9. It has sparked tsunami alerts up and down the west coast this morning. And listen to this again. "Sirens ] That is the alert waking people up in Alaska this morning. People are told to get to higher ground immediately and to take shelter. In San Francisco, this alert going out to so many saying, prepare to evacuate and check on your neighbors. And in Washington state, people told to get ready to take action, so let's get right to kayna Whitworth who is on the pier in Santa Monica, California. Kayna. Reporter: Hey, robin. Good morning, so the first warning signs came in from the national weather service here and sent to cell phones in Alaska. They were telling people to get to higher ground. And here in the west coast, in California, look at this. This is on my cell phone. I woke up to this. It says tsunami watch for the west coast so now those that evacuated in Alaska to higher ground are just waiting to see if and when the tsunami hits. This is the alarm that woke residents in Alaska in the middle of the night. A tsunami warning triggered by a 7.9 earthquake off the coast of Alaska. A tsunami watch generated up and down much of the west coast from British Columbia all the way to San Francisco bay. This is not a drill. This is an actual tsunami warning. Everybody get at least 100 feet above sea level. High school parking lot, pillar mountain is safe however it is very backed up right now so you won't make it there in five minutes. So best place right now is the high school parking lot. Everybody get out of your homes and make it to a safe place. Reporter: Expected to strike kodiak, Alaska, first, residents heeding the order rushing to higher ground. There's nothing to be scared of. Reporter: The quake took place in shallow water 175 miles off the coast and according to noaa tsunami waves can travel as fast as 500 miles an hour in deep water. In shallow water, the waves slow in height and size as they build. Now, a colleague pointed out 500 miles an hour is as fast as a commercial jet so this is a very scary situation for people, also just a few minutes ago the kodiak police department sent out a tweet saying that they're actually seeing waters receding from their harbors so they are asking folks that made their way to higher ground to remain in place. So it's important to note right now where I stand H in los Angeles we're some 350 miles from San Francisco and within the hour, they issued a tsunami watch and what they're saying is that if you're within three blocks of the pacific coast or five blocks from the pacific bay they have to be prepared to evacuate. Again, that's for people living in San Francisco. So you're at a greater risk if you're less than 25 feet above sea level. So ts is a very scary situation for people in the west coast. It is possible that if we see a tsunami, we could see it very soon in Alaska and as time moves on, the tsunami warning and watch will move all the way down the west coast. So, again, everybody remains on high alert here on the west coast. Robin. Mccakayna, can you give us a feeling of what it was like to receive the warning this morning. Reporter: Robin, it's very scary. My husband actually noticed it first and he woke me up a little bit nervous because we don't live that far from the water so it is -- it's very jarring to get that alert on your phone and what you know is you just have to head to higher ground. All right, kayna, thank you very much. You mentioned kodiak and we want to go to kodiak school superintendent Larry Ledoux at a school shelter. We heard what kayna said about the receding waters. When did you first feel the earthquake, Larry? Well, I don't know the exact time. I know that I was awake and the house started to shake and it went on and on which is not Normal for the kind of earthquakes I've experienced in Alaska. Normally they're short and this was long. Can you give us the sense of the mood, the emotions in the shelter? Well, we have 500 or 600 people at the high school. We open all of our schools as shelters when we gotten an alert. Children, elders, very relaxed atmosphere. Glad to hear that. What are you all being told at this hour? Well, we monitor the city police and provide alerts and right now they're just saying stay in place until you get official word. You're mentioning all the people there in the shelter and we know that in 1964 your beloved town, kodiak, was hit hard by a tsunami and there are some people that went through that. Are they sharing anything of what happened then? I think they are. I recognize a number of people sitting here who were here in '64, but, you know, tupacs are part of our life and have sirens tested every Wednesday at

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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