The 1964 Earthquake

Here in Alaska we refer to it as the ’64 earthquake, the Good Friday earthquake, or just the quake, as in, “Were you here for the quake?”


On March 27, 1964, Southcentral Alaska experienced one of the biggest earthquakes in history, registering at 9.2 magnitude. The epicenter was in Prince William Sound, and towns and villages from Kodiak to Chenega to Valdez were devastated. Our largest city, Anchorage, had a great deal of damage too. The tremors were felt by most Alaskans, and the tsunamis and other water effects also hit residents of the Lower 48 and countries abroad.


The Anchorage Daily News has been running a series on the stories and science of the earthquake. Check it out at


It’s hard to imagine how big the earthquake and tsunamis were. One thing stays in my mind–not only was the earthquake big, but it lasted four minutes. I’ve been in many smaller earthquakes, and four minutes of shaking would be a very long time. And the tsunamis were often several waves over time–the town of Seward had seven of them.  I’m sure it felt like forever to the people who had to endure it.


Personally, I don’t have any ’64 earthquake stories. My family didn’t come up until 1968. But I heard lots of stories growing up, and the memories were fresh enough that we had frequent earthquake drills in school. I learned what to do during an earthquake, and how to prepare for one so my family had food and supplies in case the next big one hit. (It’s a good idea–if you want to consider that, I recommend the Red Cross website at


Some people say that you choose what kind of disaster you can deal with, whether you choose to live in hurricane country or tornado country or whatever it is. I have no problem with earthquakes generally.  But I hope I don’t have to experience one as big as the ’64 quake–knock on wood.


Photo: Good Friday Earthquake at Turnagain Arm, by NOAA

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I love to share my passion for Alaska and its history in my writing for young adults and their grown ups.


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