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Scientists learn lessons from Great Alaska Quake

By Lauren Maxwell 9:28 PM March 25, 2014

People still need to be prepared

ANCHORAGE – The 50th anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake is coming up on Thursday. Scientists are using this time to remind people how far we’ve come and what still needs to be done to better prepare.

The quake caused massive destruction in Southcentral Alaska, including millions of dollars in damage to Anchorage and communities in Prince William Sound. More than 100 people died.

Even with all the destruction, there are still some positive things that came from the experience. The Great Quake taught scientists some valuable lessons about what causes the earth to move.

“It really helped us strengthen the whole theory of plate tectonics,” said USGS geologist Peter Haeussler. “Which then gave us a much better conceptual framework to understand how the earth works, where earthquakes are made. It had implications far beyond merely earthquakes and volcanoes.”

Haeussler said a similar quake today might not cause the millions of dollars in destruction, mostly because newer buildings are stronger and building codes are tougher.

“In that sense I think we are much better than we were in the past,” Haeussler said. “It’s very clear that modern building codes with seismic provisions in them are much better at being able to withstand large earthquakes when they occur.”

Haeussler said another earthquake with a magnitude of 9.2 isn’t likely to occur anytime soon. Even so, much smaller earthquakes can cause considerable damage depending on where they are located.

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