• 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

    Seeking the Source: Artists map one of Anchorage’s most beloved trails

    by Sierra Starks on May 24, 14:46

    Be it human feet, moose hooves, bike tires or dog paws, Anchorage’s Chester Creek Trail has seen its fair share of visitors. The trail’s special guests this week were artists, from Alaska and the Lower 48. Adorned in bright green vests and sashes with yellow badges, the eight artists set out to map the Chester […]

  • News

    Juneau theater community remembers PJ Paparelli

    by Associated Press on May 24, 14:39

    After his recent death in Scotland, the Juneau theater community remembers a prominent director as highly respected, if not always liked. The Juneau Empire reports (http://bit.ly/1PFTlHz ) that Paul Joseph “PJ” Paparelli died in a car accident Thursday. He was 40. Paparelli served as artistic director for Perseverance Theater from 2004 until 2007. The plays […]

  • News

    In Bethel, female body found near Pinky’s Park Boardwalk

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 24, 14:21

    A body was found early Sunday morning in the area of the boardwalk at Pinky’s Park in Bethel, police say. At around 4 a.m., the Bethel Police Department responded to reports of a dead body found at Pinky’s Park. When officers arrived to the area, they found the remains of a female in nearby bushes, […]

  • Sports

    Chugiak beats South 4-3 in extra innings to win CIC

    by KTVA Sports on May 24, 11:54

    Just one day after losing to Dimond High School in extra innings, the Chugiak Mustangs went to extra frames again Saturday night. This time they came away with the win. After taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, the Mustangs gave up one run in the third and two more runs in […]

  • Crime

    UPDATE: Felon sought by APD nabbed by police dog

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 24, 10:56

    Police have arrested the 25-year-old man who fired a handgun in front of APD officers early Sunday morning. William Jarrett IV has been a convicted felon since 2008 and “therefore is not allowed to either be in possession of a firearm or reside in a home where firearms are located,” according to a release from the […]

  • Crime

    Tok man arrested after shooting into sporting goods store

    by Associated Press on May 24, 10:39

    A Tok man has been jailed after troopers say he fired a gun into a sporting goods store while his wife was locked inside. The Daily News-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/1cd6DJ3 ) that Alaska State Troopers responded to calls about a disturbance at Three Bears Outpost in Tok and found a 59-year-old man leaving the area. Officials […]

  • Politics

    Alaska lawmakers hint budget deal is close

    by Dave Leval on May 23, 20:54

    The Alaska House reconvened in Anchorage Saturday for the third day of its second special session. It turned out to be a light lineup; the House session wrapped up after about 25 minutes. The big issue facing Alaska lawmakers is still passing a fully funded budget. They have until June 1 to reach a deal; otherwise, […]

  • News

    Alaska firefighters get extra help from Lower 48

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 23, 20:17

    Due to high fire danger around the state, extra firefighting resources from the Lower 48 are now joining the forces in Alaska. Sixteen smoke jumpers from Boise, Idaho are now going through orientation before being assigned to a suppression effort. Jet-propelled tankers — which can carry 3,000 gallons of retardant — arrived Friday to bolster […]