• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
1m 35s

Lessons learned from Alaska’s ’64 quake

By Lauren Maxwell 6:19 AM February 13, 2014

Experts say Anchorage has become safer over the years

ANCHORAGE - On March 27, 1964, Alaska experienced the greatest earthquake ever recorded in North America.

One hundred and thirty people were killed, and damage was estimated at more than $300 million from a quake that measured 9.2 on the Richter scale.

Could it happen again, and would the damage be as bad? Experts say strong quakes are bound to rock our state, but stronger building codes can make a big difference when it comes to whether those buildings will stand.

Anchorage is built on shaky ground and one of the worst areas is along the Turnagain Bluff. In 1964, 75 homes were destroyed on the bluff when the ground beneath them gave way and sent houses tumbling toward Cook Inlet. Sharen Walsh, a top municipal planner, said homes built there today are held to a higher standard.

“The issue out here is ground failure,” Walsh said. “So you have to design for that. You want to keep your house together, even if the ground underneath it starts to move.”

Walsh said homes in earthquake hot spots like along the bluff and in Bootlegger’s Cove require design by a structural engineer. Many have special foundations that are built to move. Walsh said most buildings in Anchorage that were constructed since the 1980s meet tough design standards meant to withstand a quake.

But despite the lessons learned, there are still some cautions. Buildings aren’t required to be retrofitted to the latest safety standards because of the enormous cost involved. Some see that as a problem. Another issue? People who rode out the ’64 quake unscathed may become complacent and believe they are no longer at risk.

Experts say every earthquake is different. Where it strikes and how the ground responds could make all the difference when it comes to damages. They say it’s important to remember what happened to Anchorage once could happen again, but hopefully with a better outcome.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Following fire, Eagle River residents get home safety tips

    by Eric Ruble on May 28, 18:49

    The recent fire near Eagle River has reminded some Alaskans of the need to be fire ready, or “FireWise.” The Anchorage Fire Department’s FireWise program is helping Alaskans keep their properties safe this summer, when fire conditions are considered dangerous. Watching the plumes of smoke billow from his Eagle River balcony Friday afternoon, Rick Roberts […]

  • Sports

    High school runner brings spotlight to Alaska transgender policy

    by Jake Edmonds on May 28, 13:05

    Haines runner Nattaphon Wangyot qualified for the girls 1-2-3A 100-meter and 200-meter finals Friday afternoon at the high school state track and field meet, but unlike her competitors, she was born with male anatomy. Transgender equality has become a hot topic of discussion around the country, and Alaska is no exception. The Alaska Schools Activities […]

  • News

    Pasco frozen food company lays off 61 in wake of recall

    by Associated Press on May 28, 12:32

    A Pasco frozen food company has laid off 61 more workers amid an ongoing shutdown in connection to listeria contamination in some of its products. The Tri-City Herald reports that CRF Frozen Foods announced the additional layoffs Friday, raising the total number of workers laid off to more than 300. CRF Frozen Foods has recalled […]

  • Lifestyle

    Earliest snowmelt on record in Barrow

    by Emily Russell / KNOM on May 28, 12:21

    Snow in the northernmost town in the nation is melting earlier than ever before on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Observatory in Barrow reported a snowmelt staring on May 13. That’s 10 days earlier than the previous record set in 2002. NOAA has been recording snowmelt from its Barrow Observatory for over 70 years. The […]

  • News

    Health experts: Move Rio Olympics due to Zika outbreak

    by Associated Press on May 28, 10:25

    Health experts on Friday urged the World Health Organization to consider whether the Rio de Janeiro Olympics should be postponed or moved because of the Zika outbreak. The 150 experts — including former White House science adviser Dr. Philip Rubin — issued an open letter to the U.N. health agency, calling for the games to be delayed or […]

  • News

    Crews work to mop up Hiland Fire near Eagle River

    by KTVA 11 News on May 27, 22:18

      Last updated at 3:11 p.m. on Saturday, May 28 EAGLE RIVER — A large number of emergency responders spent Friday evening battling a small wildfire near Hiland Road in Eagle River. By Saturday afternoon, the fire was 100-percent contained and crews were conducting mop-up operations, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry (DOF). In […]

  • News

    From WWII to Vietnam: Wasilla veteran remembers 28 years of service

    by Lauren Maxwell on May 27, 21:36

    There may not be many people who can claim they fought in World War II, became a German prisoner of war then stayed in the military to complete two tours of duty in Vietnam, but Wasilla resident Walter Ferguson is one of them. Walt and his wife Lila are both 91 years old. They met […]

  • Lifestyle

    Anchorage store goes above and beyond to support deaf employees

    by Shannon Ballard on May 27, 20:30

    Inside the South Anchorage Petco there are plenty of sounds to grab your attention, but 22-year-old Joseph Martin works in silence. “I can’t hear and it’s hard they don’t understand. I can’t talk,” Joseph Martin said using sign language. When KTVA spoke to Joseph Martin on Friday, his mom Jane did her best to interpret. […]