Remembering the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake

A 9.2 magnitude earthquake devastated Southcentral Alaska 59 years ago on March 27.
Published: Mar. 27, 2023 at 9:03 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Monday marks the 59th anniversary of the 1964 Alaska Earthquake, commonly referred to as the Good Friday Earthquake, that rocked Southcentral Alaska to its core.

At 5:36 p.m. local time on March 27, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake occurred in the north Prince William Sound region, roughly 75 miles east of Anchorage.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake lasted about four minutes, and is the most powerful recorded earthquake in U.S. history. It’s the second-largest earthquake recorded in the world, surpassing the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the 2004 magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Jakarta, Indonesia, and only second to the 1960 Chile earthquake that registered 9.5.

The images from that day are powerful and speak for themselves as words can hardly do them justice.

Catastrophic damage occurred all across Southcentral. The five-story J.C. Penny building in Anchorage partially collapsed.

A total of 131 people died from the quake and the resulting tsunami, which devastated buildings and livelihoods in Seward, Homer, parts of Southeast Alaska and the Aleutians.

According to the USGS, the ground shook and rolled so violently that ground along both Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm sank as low as eight feet and shifted as much as 50 feet. Valdez and Girdwood needed to relocate to higher ground while parts of Kodiak rose 30 feet.

“It’s a poignant yearly reminder of the active seismic zone we live in and the need to be prepared,” said Jeremy Zidek, public information officer with Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The state will conduct a test of the tsunami warning system Wednesday at 10:15 a.m. Test alerts will be broadcast via TV, radio and some coastal towns and villages may sound their sirens.