Top Stories

By Matt Tunseth

Chugiak-Eagle River Star

Educators are leaning into a new normal at schools in Chugiak-Eagle River, where campuses have been combined due to the closure of Eagle River Elementary and Gruening Middle School in the wake of the Nov. 30 earthquake.

“I’m actually pretty excited about the opportunity,” said Gruening Middle School principal Bobby Jefts, whose 600 students will attend the rest of the school year at Chugiak High.

Community groups are rallying together to help Chugiak-Eagle River regroup and recover from last week’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

The local Lions Club has stepped up to help the Boys and Girls Club, sports teams have pitched in to help local schools and all around town countless volunteers have aided recovery efforts wherever they’re needed.

Eagle River is still struggling to get back on its feet a week after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake ripped through town and left much of the central business district in various states of disrepair.

You can’t stop Christmas.

The annual Winter Wonderland celebration originally scheduled for Nov. 30 — the day a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Eagle River — has been rescheduled for Dec. 14 in Town Square Park.

The tree lighting celebration featuring Christmas music, hot cocoa, the Christmas tree lighting and a visit from Santa Claus will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Town Square Park on Business Boulevard. The celebration won’t be as flashy as the one origianlly planned, but the show will definitely go on.

Daric and Michael Harkless fell in love with Alaska at first sight.

“We love going to Mount Baldy, going up Flattop,” Daric Harkless said Tuesday from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where her husband is stationed in the Army.

Michael was stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in 2012, and in 2013, the couple bought a home in nearby Eagle River, where they planned to eventually settle permanently. The neighborhood they found off Eagle River Road was everything they could hope for.

The Anchorage Municipal Clerk is taking applications to fill the vacancy on the Anchorage Assembly created when Chugiak’s Amy Demboski resigned to become deputy chief of staff for Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Applications are available at the clerk’s office, on the assembly’s website at or at the municipality’s elections site at

A second Eagle River school has been closed for the rest of the school year due to damage from Friday’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake.

At a Wednesday press conference, Anchorage School District officials said Gruening Middle School is too damaged to reopen. On Tuesday, the district said Eagle River Elementary will be closed through the school year. Both schools suffered extensive damage in the earthquake.

Seamus and Charlie knew just what to do when the big quake hit.


When the shaking started in their Eagle River Valley neighborhood, the shaggy haired 12-year-old and his teenage buddy bolted in the direction of Walmart and didn’t look back. Things could have ended badly for the runaways that day if it weren’t for the actions of a sharp-eyed cop, a determined mom and a kindly neighbor with a Lion King sleeping bag.

Not everyone survived Friday morning’s quake unscathed. Calls for service were widespread in the immediate aftermath of the magnitude 7.0 shaker, with numerous calls reported for things like gas leaks and fire alarms.

The Chugiak-Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department responded to 28 calls in the 24 hours after the quake, including three structure fires, six medical calls, a pair of car crashes and 10 leak investigations. There was also a teacher who thought she was going into labor at Fire Lake Elementary, but the baby ended up deciding to wait until things calmed down outside.

Though Friday’s earthquake caused widespread damage in downtown Eagle River, one thing was abundantly clear.

Jitters isn’t going anywhere.

The popular downtown coffee shop that’s home to countless business meetings and bull sessions was hit hard by the quake, as were other tenants in the Eagle River Shopping Center. But on Sunday, a small team of employees, volunteers and friends showed up to help clean up the family owned institution.