1964 Good Friday Great Alaskan Earthquake
On Good Friday, March 27, 1964 the residents of the state
of Alaska were severely jolted by an earthquake with an
90 kilometers (55miles) west of the town of Valdez
and 120 kilometers (75miles) east of Anchorage
(exact epicentral location: Latitude 61.04N, Longitude
147.73 W ).
- This was the second largest
earthquake ever recorded in the world, and had a magnitude of 9.2 (Mw)
, and the largest in North America.(4)
- The earthquake caused the greatest
- Shaking lasted four minutes in
- Movement of the ocean floor caused the most disastrous
ever hit the west coast of the United States and Canada.
The largest wave height was 67 meters
(220 feet) in the Valdez Inlet at Shoup Bay.
- One hundred twenty three people died and 300 to 400 million
dollars in property damage were reported (1964 dollars).(5)
||minor coastal damage
Southern Alaska was hit with rock slides,
landslides, snow avalanches and tsunami waves.
Multistory buildings were hit hardest because long-period seismic
waves, such as the ones that hit Anchorage,
affect tall buildings more than short period ones.(1)
railroad tracks and bridges were lost, as were power
facilities, radio stations and dock structures.(1)
- An area
of over 130,000 square kilometers (50,000square miles)
sustained major damage.(2)
In Anchorage alone (which is 120 miles northwest of the
epicenter) thirty blocks of houses and commercial buildings
were destroyed or badly damaged in the downtown area.(6)
The schools in Anchorage were almost all wiped out.(6)
The death toll
was very small for an earthquake of this magnitude for
- Alaska’s low population density
(less than one
person per square kilometer)(4)
- It occured on a holiday (Good Friday), and schools and
businesses were closed
- It happened at 5:30 at night when most people were at home.
- Wood construction, which is used for most of the homes,
is more flexible than concrete and
can bend and sway more without falling.(2)
Learn more about the 1964 Good Friday Great Alaskan
Other sites of interest:
Windows to Arizona Geology
United States Geological Survey Report on
With many thanks to the following sources:
Macklin, T. for
photos by his brother.
1) Bolt, B., 1993, Earthquakes. W.H.Freeman and Company.
2) Christensen, D.
3) Lutgens, F. and Tarbeck, E., 1995, Essentials in Geology. Prentice Hall.
4) Pipkin, B. and Trent, D., 1997, Geology and the Environment. West/Wadsworth.
5) Sokolowski, T.
6) United States Geological Survey.
Page by Nievita Bueno Hartness
Last Updated 12/06/2001
E-mail me at: