KODIAK, AK (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, a 9.2 earthquake rocked Alaska. It generated deadly tsunami waves which crossed the Pacific to Hawaii. Here's the story of what happened that day.
Seven of the 10 most powerful earthquakes around the US have been in Alaska. The Good Friday quake is the second largest one ever measured on earth. A day that has gone down in history in Alaska as "Black Friday", and even immortalized in song:
It was March 27th, 1964
Anchorage started shaking like it never shook before
buildings started falling the ground began to break
the world has never seen the likes of Alaska's earthquake
Alice Ryser felt it shake, "Then the ground started to open up behind me and I thought good grief."
It's 5:36 PM, right around dinner time, Lavonda Beukers and her brothers and sisters are playing outdoors.
"At that age of thirteen my thoughts of an earthquake was oh my gosh the ground is going to open up and swallow me," she thought.
In Seward and Anchorage the ground literally opens up. The Denali Theater falls 30 feet. While in Kodiak it's...
"Like waves rolling down the road the trees and the power lines were just whipping back and forth, it was just crazy," explains Herman Squartsoff.
It shakes for nearly five minutes. 85 miles from the epicenter, the earthquake triggers underwater landslides in Seward. Which in turn, generate deadly local tsunami waves inundating the town in mere minutes.
Seward is devastated. Houses, boats and even train locomotives are swept hundreds of yards inland. Just 53 miles from the source the town of Valdez is washed out by local tsunami waves as well.
Valdez harbor first went dry as the sea floor dropped then surged upward 50 feet. A wave started racing to shore. Of the 28 people standing on the docks, no one survived.
Meanwhile, the main tsunami waves generated at the epicenter are roared from the Gulf of Alaska toward Kodiak island from the Aleutian Trench. The earth is permanently lifted by 30 feet in some spots.
No local tsunamis were created buying time for residents to evacuate up Pillar mountain. About an hour later the first tsunami wave floods the downtown area. Across Alaska, the death toll is 106 people. Survivors learn an important lesson that day.
Ellen Lester remembers it like it was yesterday, "The lessons were learned, if there's an earthquake, go to high ground."
In Hawaii, just six hours later people heeded that very warning. Those same tsunami waves traveled clear across the Pacific to our shores.