• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 3s

50th anniversary of great quake looms

By Lauren Maxwell 5:47 AM February 12, 2014

Many Alaskans have vivid memories of the Good Friday Earthquake

ANCHORAGE - It is a date that will mark Alaska forever in the history books: On March 27,1964 Alaska experienced the second largest earthquake ever recorded.

The 9.2 shaker toppled buildings, uprooted homes and left deep cracks in the ground. One hundred and thirty people died, but many more survived with a story to tell.

Nancy Bidwell is one of them. Bidwell was a 17-year-old senior at West High School the day the earthquake struck. That Good Friday afternoon she headed downtown to meet her boyfriend on Anchorage’s 4th Avenue.

“I remember hitting the ground,” Bidwell said. “We couldn’t stand up. It was like ocean waves.”

Bidwell said she and her boyfriend grabbed a parking meter and hung on for dear life.

“Then we let go of those and ran out into the middle of the intersection and hung on to the fins of a ’59 Cadillac,” she said.

Bidwell and her boyfriend rode out the quake staring straight ahead, and what they saw was frightening: five blocks on the north side of 4th Avenue, sinking into the ground.

“So we are seeing all these buildings collapsing and cars parked and then all of a sudden they’re gone,” Bidwell said. “It was terrifying because you think it’s coming right up the street and you’re next!”

Bidwell was spared, but barely. Moments before she’d met her boyfriend she’d been shopping at the J.C. Penney store on 5th Avenue.

That was the scene of some of the worst destruction of all.

The five-story building was a total loss. Amazingly, only two people died, a man on the street and a woman driving by in her car who was crushed by falling debris.

Bidwell would like to say the worst of her earthquake experience was over at that point, but it wasn’t. For three days she couldn’t get back to her Turnagain neighborhood to find out if her family was alive.

Many of the homes on the bluff were destroyed when the ground gave out beneath them. But Bidwell was lucky; her family was safe a block away.

Bidwell has photos of the crack in her back yard big enough for her father to put his arm in. And she has memories of many more scenes that happened in the days that followed. Mostly, she said she feels gratitude to have survived the quake and be able to reflect on an event that changed Alaska 50 years ago.

Latest Stories

  • News

    NAHC announces Begich as newest team member

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 31, 13:04

    Former Sen. Mark Begich’s next move is no longer a secret. The National Association for Home Care and Hospice in Washington, D.C. has announced that Begich will be joining the organization’s leadership team. Begich will now serve as the vice president for policy development and president and CEO of the Foundation for Hospice and Homecare, […]

  • Sports

    Local Seahawks fans voice their support ahead of Super Bowl Sunday

    by on Jan 30, 23:11

    The Seattle Seahawks continue preparing for Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz. Fans back in Anchorage are sending a loud message to their favorite team hoping the Seahawks win their second straight championship. Fans staged a rally early Friday night at Flat Top Pizza. It took place after they took part in another event at […]

  • News

    Former NFL player helps teens become successful, avoid trouble with the law

    by Dave Leval on Jan 30, 22:50

    Former defensive end Mao Tosi has tackled many people during his playing days in college and in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals. Being home in Anchorage, however, may provide his biggest obstacle. Ten years ago, Tosi created AK Pride, a program in which he teams mentors with kids in a variety of programs ranging […]

  • News

    Alaska Regional Hospital announces plans for Mountain View clinic

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 30, 21:48

    The Anchorage Community Land Trust and Alaska Regional Hospital have signed an agreement to open a community health clinic in Mountain View to better serve residents in the area. The clinic would provide primary care services for residents in the Mountain View community, many of whom may not be getting the level of healthcare they […]

  • News

    Mayoral candidates address recent Anchorage violence

    by Kate McPherson on Jan 30, 20:34

    With the recent surge in violent crimes in Anchorage, some of the candidates in the upcoming mayoral race are speaking out against the actions of perpetrators and looking for ways to protect other residents. Candidate Andrew Halcro says the recent shootings in Anchorage need to be addressed with dedicated gang and drug task forces. “When […]

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, Jan. 30

    by Carlos Faura on Jan 30, 19:23

    Kenai Peninsula and Prince William Sound Lots of sunshine and mild temperatures as a ridge builds into the area. Because of such a stable atmosphere and because there is little wind, conditions are ripe for some fog to develop overnight into the morning hours. It should just be patchy in nature and be gone by […]

  • News

    Last man on the moon lands in Anchorage

    by Lauren Maxwell on Jan 30, 17:40

    The last man to walk on the moon visited Anchorage on Friday, and spoke with students enrolled in the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut Capt. Eugene Cernan, 80, was the invited speaker to help celebrate the ANSEP’s 20th anniversary. He told […]

  • News

    APD releases traffic fatality stats for 2014

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Jan 30, 17:06

    Anchorage saw an uptick in traffic fatalities last year compared to 2009-2013, according to data released by the Anchorage Police Department Friday. Twenty-three people died in traffic collisions in 2014, which includes all collision types involving vehicles, pedestrians, or bicyclists. Of those, alcohol or drugs were a factor in 15 of the cases. The department […]