Lessons from the 1964 Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami

Fifty-four years ago today, at 5:36 pm, a powerful magnitude 9.2 earthquake shook the coast of Alaska southeast of Anchorage. It was one of the two strongest earthquakes ever recorded anywhere. The shaking lasted almost 4.5 minutes! The quake killed many people in Alaska, but what may be surprising is that 16 people died in Oregon and California, more than 1,300 miles away. How did this happen?

WASHINGTON STATE GEOLOGY NEWS

Fifty-four years ago today, at 5:36 pm, a powerful magnitude 9.2 earthquake shook the coast of Alaska southeast of Anchorage. It was one of the two strongest earthquakes ever recorded anywhere. The shaking lasted almost 4.5 minutes! The quake killed many people in Alaska, but what may be surprising is that 16 people died in Oregon and California, more than 1,300 miles away. How did this happen?

The Alaska earthquake unleashed a massive tsunami that rushed across the Pacific, reaching the Washington coast in fewer than four hours. The waves reached heights of up to twelve feet in Seaview. Some people returned to the beaches before the tsunami waves had completely subsided.

In those days tsunami warning systems were not as advanced as they are today. Only one tsunami warning center existed in the United States, located at the Honolulu Geomagnetic Observatory on Hawaii. The 1964 earthquake reinforced the need…

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