By Agence France-Presse
The 7.0 magnitude quake was located about eight miles (13 kilometers) north of Anchorage and struck at 8:29 am local time (1729 GMT), the US Geological Survey said.
The city's police department said it had caused "major infrastructure damage to Anchorage."
"Many homes and buildings are damaged," the police department said in a statement. "Many roads and bridges are closed. Stay off the roads if you don't need to drive."
There were no immediate reports of significant injuries.
A tsunami warning was issued for the Cook Inlet and the Kenai Peninsula following the massive quake but was quickly lifted.
Residents of Anchorage posted pictures and videos to Twitter of damage to their homes and stores -- belongings knocked off of shelves, broken windows and pictures scattered on the floor.
Local CBS affiliate KTVA posted a video of a room shaking back and forth with panels falling from the ceiling and lights flickering as people hid under desks.
"Everyone just sprinted out of the coffee shop I was at in Anchorage in the middle of a huge earthquake," Nat Herz, a reporter with news portal Alaska's Energy Desk, posted on Twitter.
"Car alarms going off, etc. But not seeing any serious damage here aside from random stuff falling over. People going back to computers, meetings," Herz said.
University, airport closed
The Anchorage Daily News said the quake caused damage at the newspaper, cracking walls and mangling ceiling panels.
ENSTAR Natural Gas company warned residents to beware of gas leaks while the main water company said there had been water main breaks.
Municipal Light & Power warned people to look out for downed power lines and said it was seeking to restore electricity to affected customers.
The University of Alaska announced it was closing for the day. "All non-essential personnel should go home," it said in a tweet.
Anchorage airport temporarily halted incoming and outgoing flights after the air control tower was evacuated.
A video posted to Twitter showed a buckled road on a highway exit ramp leading to the airport and a stranded car.
The Anchorage School District told parents to come pick up their children "when you feel it is safe to do so."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump had been briefed about the quake and was monitoring damage reports.
"We are praying for the safety of all Alaskans!" she said.