The 1964 Earthquake
At 5:36 p.m. on Good Friday, March 27, 1964 Alaska was devastated by an earthquake that registered 8.4 on the Richter scale, the strongest ever recorded on the North American continent. 115 people lost their lives during the quake and the ensuing tsunami or tidal wave; 33 were swept to sea as they were standing on the wharf at Valdez. The earthquake caused property damage of more than $300 million, and was felt as far away as 800 miles from the epicenter in Prince William Sound. The tsunami destroyed Valdez and several smaller settlements, heavily damaging many more in southcentral Alaska. It also killed 16 people in Oregon and California. Anchorage escaped with only nine victims, largely because the earthquake occurred after school and business hours. The greatest local damage was along the bluff from Turnagain Heights to the downtown area, where a geological layer of clay, saturated with water, liquefied under pressure, causing the earth above to slide toward the sea. An appeal for federal help was met by an immediate response from President Johnson and the Congress, with material aid and long term loans for reconstruction. The military services, charitable organizations and others also provided substantial help.