1964 Alaskan Earthquake: What We’ve LearnedBy: Toni Matthews-El - March 26, 2014
Exactly fifty years ago today, the largest ever earthquake to ever hit North America shook the state of Alaska.
What became known as the ’64 Great Alaska Earthquake had a magnitude of 9.2 and it lasted from about four to five minutes.
The powerful earthquake was itself blamed for fifteen deaths. The resulting tsunami was responsible for killing 124 people, bringing the total fatalities to 139.
The damage was catastrophic. By today’s economic standards, repairing the devastated region would cost upwards of $2.3 billion.
In seeing images of the aftermath, it’s clear just how much it impacted the population of Anchorage, Alaska and surrounding areas.
The impact has been felt in other ways in the decades since this major natural disaster.
For instance, this earthquake played a key role in the formation of the the National Tsunami Warning Center, then known as the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.
Many individuals at the time incorrectly believed that the most dangerous aspect of an earthquake was the violent shaking. We now know that depending on the location, an earthquake can generate potentially life-threatening tsunamis.
Even if persons aren’t close enough to the epicenter to have felt the earthquake, a tsunami can still reach them.
This earthquake played a major role in the development and advancement of technology that monitors seismic activities.
These developments mean that a warning can be sent out within minutes of an earthquake, giving those who could be hit by a tsunami a chance to get to higher ground.
When it comes to massive earthquakes like what hit Alaska all those years ago, the major question is always, “Will it happen again?”
The answer is always, “Yes, it will.”
Though these “megathrusts” aren’t regular occurrences, there is evidence that they’ve happened throughout history with some form of regularity.
Scientists now know that the 1964 earthquake was the latest megathrust to hit Alaska. The region experiences such mega earthquakes at an average of once every 600 years.
Image via YouTube