• 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

  • Anchorage airport wants to charge city to use snow dump

    by Lauren Maxwell on Oct 27, 20:16

    Many Alaskans are crossing their fingers for more snow this winter but some city officials may feel differently. That’s because there could be one less place to put the snow if Anchorage gets a lot of it. Alan Czajkowski is the director of Maintenance and Operations for Anchorage. Czajkowski said for more than 25 years […]

  • Politics

    Behind the Ballot: Ray Metcalfe for US Senate

    by Liz Raines on Oct 27, 19:44

    He’s known by many as “Disco Ray,” a nickname he earned dancing at the Baranof Hotel in Juneau, while serving in the Alaska House in the early 1980s. Now, Ray Metcalfe calls himself the “anti-corruption candidate,” for U.S. Senate. “You can get change with this if you take it to the ballot box and vote,” […]

  • News

    FBI teams up with local law enforcement for child abduction training

    by Heather Hintze on Oct 27, 18:29

    Agents from the FBI teamed up with police officers and troopers from around Alaska to conduct an intensive training to respond to a child abduction. Training scenario: At 7:50 a.m., a 9-year-old girl went missing near DeArmoun Road and Specking Road. Law enforcement officers turned a local church into a command post to begin the […]

  • On-Air

    Reality Check w/ John Tracy: What’s in a name?

    by John Tracy on Oct 27, 16:57

    The residents of Utqiaġvik have about four more weeks of sunrises until the sun disappears for another winter. Utqiaġvik is the Inupiat name for Barrow and, as voters recently decided, will be the official name of Alaska’s northernmost village. The vote was close — passage came by just six votes. Many of those opposed to the […]

  • DayBreak

    Mic Check in the Morning: The Hannah Yoter Band

    by Daybreak Staff on Oct 27, 16:11

    With a new album coming out Nov. 18 and a selection of shows this holiday season, The Hannah Yoter Band took some time out Thursday morning to bring their folky Americana sound to the Daybreak studio. Yoter said the album, “Something Good,” was recorded mostly live in a cabin in Hope, Alaska, where the singer hails from. The live […]

  • News

    Attorneys plan to seek mediation in Pebble Mine case

    by Associated Press on Oct 27, 16:03

    JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – Attorneys plan to seek mediation in a lawsuit between the group behind the proposed Pebble Mine and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In a court filing Thursday, attorneys for the Pebble Limited Partnership said the parties would seek mediation. A recent request by both sides to extend the discovery period in […]

  • Sports

    University of Alaska plan looks to cut skiing, indoor track programs

    by Dave Goldman on Oct 27, 15:24

    The University of Alaska Anchorage will likely cut its men’s and women’s skiing and indoor track programs as early as next year. University President Jim Johnsen and UAA athletic director Keith Hackett made the announcement Thursday at a joint press conference at the Alaska Airlines Center. It’s part of the ongoing effort since the Strategic […]

  • UAA’s ‘And Then There Were None’ opens for Halloween

    by Daybreak Staff on Oct 27, 15:21

    Agatha Christie’s murder mystery “And Then There Were None” comes alive just in time for Halloween. UAA’s Theatre and Dance department will be putting on the play starting Oct. 28. The show will run for two weekends. The plot centers around 10 people who are stuck in an island mansion, and they soon realize that they […]