10 January 2014

9.2 Magnitude: Alaska's 1964 'Quake Remembered


On March 27, 1964, California geologist George Plafker was attending a research conference in Seattle when news came of a big earthquake in Alaska.

“It was almost quitting time for the day at the meeting when some guys came back from the Space Needle and said they felt rocking,” Plafker said recently at his office in Menlo Park, Calif. “We said, ‘That’s a serious earthquake.’”
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/Great_Alaska_Earthquake_Fourth_Ave_Anchorage.jpg
Iconic photograph of Anchorage's 4th Avenue - this is the block where I used to work,
and where the Iditarod is now run.




The area shown in the second picture was a neighborhood called "Turnagain-by-the-Sea", where the bluff collapsed into Cook Inlet, and 35 houses went with it. In a purely local joke, it's now referred to as "Turnagain-IN-the-Sea".


This is what the stretch of 4th Avenue looks like, today:

The long, gray-ish building on the right is located on top of where that hole appeared in '64. The crosswalk shown, in front of the yellow building (the "Sunshine Plaza") at the center is the starting line for the Iditarod, now.


The linked article at the top is that geologist's recollections; there are many more such stories about communities destroyed by the resulting tsunami, as well as those killed in Alaska and California.

18 comments:

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Think I will always remember a quote attributed to Bob Reeves, founder of Reeves Aleutian Airways. After the quake hit, he went down a stairway. Later reporters asked him if he was scared. "No," he replied, "But I passed three fellows on the stairs that were real scared."

ProudHillbilly said...

A former co-worker was stationed there at the time - he said it was definitely freaky. And we sent crews up to re-establish survey control right after. The field reports are full of stories about digging through several feet of snow to try to find survey marks.

Rev. Paul said...

WSF, that's pretty much what he said. He wasn't a man to scare easily, but everybody here was shaken, physically & emotionally. The 'quake lasted for four and a half minutes, and at least one nearby mountain literally split down the middle, separated, and then slammed back together.

PH, it was a massive recovery effort - and the donations from people all over the USA were amazing.

joated said...

That's the same quake that caused them to relocate the town of Valdez, isn't it?

denimflyz said...

I remember seeing a tv report on something that showed the sea opening up and making a hole into the water and it (the water) was dropping down. Was that this earthquake? I was only 6 when this happened, but I do remember seeing things on tv and my grandparents talking about it.
Love the showing of photos of this.
Thank you

Sandy said...

Rev. Paul,

Great photographs of history, one can only hope this doesn't happen again.

Rev. Paul said...

joated, yes - that's correct.

denimflyz, that's correct, too. The harbor drained almost completely, and then the tsunami came back at nearly 200 ft high.

Agreed, Sandy - it was considered a 500-year event, so we have 450 years until the next one. Or so "they" say. :)

Cathy said...

Whoa. Those pictures of a world turned upside down.
Scary. Have you experienced any tremors there? I've only experienced one in Denver. It was a 2.5. And that was impressive enough.

Rev. Paul said...

Yes, Cathy. Lots of them. Alaska has more 'quakes every day than the rest of the US combined.

Most are too small to feel, of course, but we have 4.5 to 5.1 shakers every few months. Just a few years ago, there was 7.something in the Interior that took out a highway bridge, a couple miles of pavement, and miles of railroad tracks between here & Fairbanks.

Old NFO said...

My cousin was at Elemendorf when the quake hit. He was on short final, had to punch a tanker and fly up to Eielson to land... And I've stayed at the Hilton there!

Rev. Paul said...

Yes, the Hilton was at the edge of the slide zone, but wasn't much affected. Everything east of the Hilton dropped 30 feet vertically & slid 20 feet to the east.

Rev. Paul said...

Armed Laughing is still having issues with his ability to leave comments, so he e-mailed this response:

"Wow! Mother Nature means business!
gfa"

threecollie said...

Wow, I have read about that quake but seeing the photos is stunning. Once again, wow!

Rev. Paul said...

In that long building in the final picture, above, is the largest single display of earthquake photos in the state; I used to manage that property, and helped set it up. The pictures are sobering.

Six said...

Loma Prieta was bad enough. I cannot imagine what that was like to try and ride out. Seeing the rebuilt area reminds me of the innate strength of Americans. Alaska Proud!

Rev. Paul said...

Six, it was bad enough that those who were here then, still break out in a sweat whenever a quake hits. But yeah, there was a lot of debate at the time about abandoning Anchorage altogether, but several leaders pulled together & announced new building projects ... and the rest, as they say, is history.

drjim said...

I remember very well when it happened.

I was 13 years old, and spent about 36 hours straight on the radio handling message traffic for the Chicago area to Alaska.

Rev. Paul said...

On behalf of those who were here then, I thank you. The 'quake took out nearly all the phone lines, and radio was the only way to call in/out.