The great 1964 Alaska Earthquake occurred on Good Friday, March 27, 2964 in the late afternoon. It was the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America.
Damage in downtown Anchorage, USGS
The epicenter was six miles (10 kilometers) east of College Fiord in the Prince William Sound. The late afternoon quake spared many lives because schools were closed and many people had gone home because it was Good Friday.
Subduction zone earthquake
The area where the earthquake occurred is a subduction zone where the Pacific Plate is subducting beneath the North American Plate. The crust of southern Alaska was compressed and warped due to plate movement prior to the great earthquake after the plates locked together.
Crustal plate movement
The Pacific Plate moved underneath the North American Plate an average of 27 feet (9 meters) during the earthquake. Parts of Montague Island were uplifted twelve to thirty-six feet ( 4-9 meters). The land around the town of Portage subsided approximately 9 feet (3 meters).
Tsunamis generated by the earthquake
Ninety percent of the people that died in the 1964 Alaska earthquake were killed by tsunamis. There were two types of waves generated during the earthquake.
Ocean wide waves
The main tsunami that swept across the Pacific Ocean. It killed people in Hawaii when the waves came ashore. It was generated by movement on the ocean floor.
Local tsunamis were generated by landslides crashing into bays and fjords. A large landslide triggered a tsunami in Shoup Bay near Valdez.
The wave in the inlet that reached a height of 200 feet (67 meters).
Tsunami damage in Seward
In Seward, a section of the waterfront slid into Resurrection Bay causing an oil fire as it was floating offshore. All the casualties in Seward were caused by tsunami.
Downtown Anchorage damage
A huge landslide in downtown anchorage caused the main business district to drop down nine feet (3 meters). Two hundred acres of land slid into the ocean at Turnagain Heights.
Schools and residential damage
The residential area of Anchorage suffered total destruction when the bluffs collapsed. A crevasse ripped apart an elementary school that was closed for the day. The Anchorage International Airport tower collapsed during the earthquake.
New Madrid Earthquakes The New Madrid earthquakes were a series of three very large earthquakes felt by people over almost 2 million square miles.
Earthquake Waves Earthquake waves are produced by the more than three million earthquakes each year.
1960 Chile Earthquake The 1960 Chile earthquake was a magnitude 9.5 the largest earthquake ever recorded!
Earthquake Faults Find out more about fault that go up, down and sideways!
Earthquake Focus Learn where the focus and epicenter of an earthquake are located and exactly what they are?
1964 Alaska Earthquake The Great Alaskan Earthquake find out why Good Friday saved many people's lives!
What Causes Earthquakes. Find out what causes earthquakes and other fascinating facts about when our planet shakes, rattles, and rolls.
Kids Fun Science The links on our home page include information about volcanoes, science activities, plate tectonics, the rock cycle and much more.