• 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

    Tudor Road closed following head-on collision between 2 vehicles

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 03, 15:47

    Vehicle parts littered Tudor Road Tuesday afternoon after two vehicles collided head-on near McLean Place. The crash was reported at 3:08 p.m., according to Anchorage police spokeswoman Renee Oistad. She said the vehicles blocked nearly all lanes of Tudor Road, forcing them to close Tudor at the scene in both directions. Oistad said none of […]

  • Crime

    Emmonak VPSO suspended, due in court on assault charges

    by Laura Kraegel/KNOM on May 03, 14:40

    The village public safety officer (VPSO) for Emmonak is due in court this Thursday for a pre-indictment hearing. According to Alaska State Troopers, 68-year-old Jay Leroy Levan pointed a firearm at three Emmonak residents while on duty last month. He was arrested in Anchorage on April 20 and now faces three felony charges of third-degree assault and […]

  • DayBreak

    Summer of Heroes program rewards community-minded youth

    by Daybreak Staff on May 03, 11:40

    Five young people in Alaska will be honored for serving their communities. Their reward? A $1,500 scholarship. The Summer of Heroes program is back for its sixth year honoring kids who are doing good in their community. It recognizes five young Alaskans making a difference and gives each “hero” receives a scholarship. One of last year’s […]

  • DayBreak

    Travel Tuesday: Campgrounds open for season

    by Daybreak Staff on May 03, 11:20

    Spring came early for Southcentral, thanks to the mild winter, allowing Alaska State Parks Department to open up many campgrounds ahead of schedule. A short drive gets you to the Bird Creek Campground, which is situated right off the Seward Highway. It’s a great place to bring the whole family, said Erin Kirkland with AK […]

  • News

    Paramo named new ASD superintendent

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 03, 7:46

    Dr. Deena Paramo has been named as the next superintendent of the Anchorage School District. “Dr. Paramo is an innovative and compassionate leader with a strong commitment to public education,” said Anchorage School Board president Kameron Perez-Verdia in a statement. “The board was particularly impressed by her energy, innovative ideas and student-focused thinking.” Paramo, who […]

  • Politics

    Legislature pursues Wells Fargo office space, says current LIO is ‘off the table’

    by Liz Raines on May 03, 7:40

    The Legislative Council voted Monday to negotiate buying the Wells Fargo building on the corner of Minnesota Drive and Benson Boulevard in Anchorage at an amount not to exceed $12.5 million. Sen. Gary Stevens, chair of the council, said purchase of the downtown Anchorage Legislative Information Office is now “off the table” after Gov. Bill […]

  • News

    Birch pollen count in Fairbanks sets new record

    by Associated Press on May 03, 6:00

    Fairbanks’s birch pollen count this year has set a new city record. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that the birch pollen count at the Tanana Valley Clinic was 4,290 on Monday, shattering the previous record of 3,900 from two years ago. [Related: Alaska allergy season starts early, expected to last longer] Laboratory technician Susan Harry, who […]

  • Politics

    Alaska House takes up crime bill on day 105 of session

    by Liz Raines on May 02, 22:52

    It’s been 15 days since the legislative session was supposed to be over. Members of House leadership say they have to pass a budget before gaveling out, but they spent Monday working on a different measure. Senate Bill 91 would revamp the way the state approaches criminal justice. Gov. Bill Walker and Department of Corrections […]