1964 Earthquake in Anchorage Alaska

Survivors of the 1964 earthquake in Anchorage Alaska, tell their stories.

The newsreel footage above, narrated by Ed Herlihy, vividly shows the destruction that occurred during the 9.2 magnitude earthquake.

The film shows that this earthquake was 35 times stronger than the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. Can you even imagine that?

Following the quake, much-needed supplies were flown in to Anchorage's Elmendorf Air Force Base, including a complete portable hospital from Seattle.

The Earth Shook Violently for 5 Minutes


5:36pm, Good Friday, March 27, 1964


It was a peaceful afternoon, just like any other.

Students were enjoying a day off because of the holiday.

At 5:36 pm, as Anchorage was beginning to settle in for a quiet evening, the world turned upside down.

Suddenly, the earth started to shake.

At first, it appeared to be a quake similar to the ones that Anchorage experienced from time to time.

But it quickly became violent as it slammed, convulsed, and began ripping apart buildings, roads, and sidewalks.

The noise was deafening. It sounded like a powerful wind and a loud train as it roared by.

And there was no place to hide.

As it continued, it began to feel as though it would never end. That it would go on and on until the earth was but a memory.

Can you imagine how that must have felt?

Both Mike and Mary of Anchorage Memories are survivors of the 1964 earthquake in Anchorage Alaska, and their stories about what they experienced are horrifying and unreal.

“We were literally shaking to the core of our being. And what we saw, felt, and heard will never leave us.”

When it was finally over, the world learned that the earthquake was a magnitude 9.2 and that it had lasted an incredible 5-minutes.

The aftershocks were intense and terrifying.

One hundred and thirty-nine people lost their lives, some in the tsunamis that followed, hitting as far away as British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.


What the Survivors Remember

damage was everywherePhoto by Ed Rosek

As you read the stories that follow, you'll meet people who were children, teens, or adults living in Anchorage when the earthquake struck on an otherwise quiet afternoon.

Through their stories, you will discover what they experienced.


Do You Have A Story?

Share it!

Memories submitted by survivors

Click below to see stories from other visitors to this page...

My 1964 Earthquake Adventure 
I had just gotten off work at JC Penneys, driven home and parked the car in the garage. I walked into the house at 1333 11th Avenue when the house …

1964 Earthquake
Story from
Turnagain
 
I was in southern California during the 1964 Alaska earthquake, but I heard the following story told by a woman in the hard-hit area of Turnagain. Her …

I Survived
The 1964 Earthquake
Inside the 4th Avenue Theater
 
It was Good Friday, 1964. Our Dad dropped us off at the 4th Avenue Theater to see a Walt Disney movie. He was going to pick us up later when the movie …

Shake Rattle and Roll 
I was a little over six years old at the time of the 1964 Alaska earthquake, so this is what I remember. We lived near Jewel lake. I don’t remember …

The Doctor got a Shot
in His Thumb
 
I was five years old when the 1964 Earthquake hit. My father, brothers, and sister were home. My brother was watching Fireball XL5 on TV. The countdown …

KTVA's Buckaroo Show
and the 64 Earthquake
 
I was hosting the Buckaroo Show live at 5 from the KTVA studios on the first floor of the McKinley Building. The show featured cartoons, puppets, and …

Salvaging
Earthquake Damaged Homes
in Turnagain
 
Many of us who were older (as in 17) volunteered for Civil Defense duty after the 1964 Alaska earthquake. We were assigned to different projects over …

My 1964 Earthquake Experience
in Turnagain
 
For you G.T., I promised this to you some time ago. And to you C.H. because your post regarding the 1964 quake and PSTD really hit home for me and …

I Saw the School Split in Half 
I was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base at the time of the 1964 Alaska earthquake. I was just outside the gate on Government Hill in a drug store …

We were lucky in Spenard 
When the 1964 Alaska earthquake first hit, my mom was in the kitchen making sloppy Joe's for dinner. The three of us were huddled around the television …

Imprinted Forever
by the 1964 Earthquake
 
I was 11 years old when the great “64” earthquake impacted my life. We lived in what my mom liked to call the cesspool, an apartment at 13th & Cordova. …

Mommy’s House Broken 
Our family was spared by the Grace of God! We lived in a single-family house on a typical street in our neighborhood of “Turnagain By The Sea.” …

Great Alaskan Earthquake
Survivor
 
My older brother Norman and I were shopping downtown in the JC Penney's Department store. At 5:36 p.m. and 14 seconds, panic swept over us. Suddenly, …

I'll Never Forget 
I was 6 years old on that day. We lived on West 29th Place, which back then was a dead-end street off of Spenard Road. As I'm writing this, it's …

The Fireball XL5
Great Alaska Earthquake
Connection
 
What does “Supermarionation” have to do with the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake in Anchorage? Right after the quake, one of the first questions all of …

Shaking on Boniface Road 
We lived in a trailer court on Boniface road. The 1964 Alaska earthquake started as a dull roar and vibration as you expect when a jet flies over. …

Home Alone 
The original… “Home Alone” I had turned 11 years old a couple of weeks before the Alaska earthquake in March 1964. My brother was 15. We lived in …

Alaskan Earthquake
No Place to Hide
 
Ground fissures were opening up all around me as the earth began to shake more violently than ever before. I was 17 years old and suddenly, I knew I …

I Remember 64 
I was 11 years old in 1964 and living with my parents in the Turnagain By The Sea residential area on Captain Cook Blvd. It was a snowy day, gray and …

The 1964 Earthquake
was a
Shaking Experience
 Not rated yet
My sister and I were sitting together, watching our favorite TV show, Fireball XL5 at our home on 3900 Arctic Blvd. As I remember, there was some kind …

Ron Moore
1964 Earthquake Memories
 Not rated yet
Scotty Ferguson and yours truly were doing a 5:30 pm news-sports cast on KFQD. I had just finished the news and Scotty was doing sports in the studio …

The Street just Disappeared Not rated yet
A friend of mine, Tom Jones (not the singer), used to go to the 4th Avenue Theater nearly every weekend and then go grab a shirt or pair of pants at our …

I was 13
and my Little Brother was 10
We Recall the Quake Vividly
 Not rated yet
I've been asked to give our memory of the March 27, 1964, earthquake at 5:36 PM. My brother and I have vivid recall. My name is Ron Dionne and my …

1964 Alaskan Earthquake
Memories
 Not rated yet
It was my husband's birthday, and I was cooking and had just placed his cake on the table. All of a sudden, things started shaking. The doors of …

Click here to write your own.




An Incredible Story of Survival


great alaskan earthquake survivor

The quake struck when Mary of Anchorage Memories was just a teen.

This is her story.


  • She was in the JC Penney Building.
  • The building collapsed around her.
  • Somehow she was able to get out.


Her book captures her amazing story.




Scroll Down for Incredible Pictures

and First Hand Accounts



Club Paris and Rexall Drug Store

Across From the JC Penney Building

Photo by Helen Bucy


club paris bar and rexall drug store following the quakeAwesome power of the 9.2 quake

The picture above shows huge concrete slabs that fell off the JC Penney building, then came crashing down on the street below, crushing cars and trapping people inside.

Does Anyone Know this Small Boy?

One story tells of a little boy who was separated from his family right in front of the Rexall Drug store (pictured above) following the quake.

In the confusion, and not knowing what to do, the shop owner placed the boy in the store's picture window where he could be seen as people walk by the store. As a result, the boy's parents found him.


Downtown Book Cache

Photo by Diane Smith


downtown book cache after the 64' quakeJC Penney building is in the background

The damaged downtown Book Cache, pictured above, was all that remained of a favorite destination for Anchorage shoppers.

After the quake, some areas looked more like a scene from a war movie, than the town of Anchorage.

The downtown Book Cache location opened quickly and became a place where people could meet.

And the question on everyone's lips was, “where were you when the quake struck?” Everyone had a story.


BONUS

1964 alaska earthquake pictures

Take a look at these rare

1964 Alaska Earthquake Pictures

The images captured in these photographs provide a glimpse of the devastation in Anchorage.



The Four Seasons

(still under construction)


four seasons total building damageFour Seasons never rebuilt.

This building was still under construction when the massive 1964 earthquake in Anchorage Alaska struck the town. The elevator shaft was all that remained.



After the Quake


Destruction on 4th Avenue

4th avenue after the good friday quakeOnly the shells of buildings remained

The eerie picture above looks more like a ghost town than Anchorage's 4th Avenue.

The image tells a fascinating tale and serves as a powerful reminder of the devastating damage caused by the 1964 earthquake in Anchorage, Alaska.

Can you imagine how the people who were in those businesses, on the sidewalk, or even driving by, must have felt when those first powerful jolts began shaking everything apart?

Many survivors still struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their experience on that day and the difficult days that followed.

The powerful aftershocks from the quake had everyone on edge.


Government Hill Elementary School


government hill elementary schoolThankfully, the children were not in school

The 1964 earthquake happened on Good Friday, March 27th.

Because of the holiday, children were not in school.

Looking at the picture above, we can thank God that no children were in that building during the quake.

In the days and weeks that followed, Anchorage school officials had to come up with new places to continue schooling for many of the town's children, including elementary, junior high and high school students.

It was another reminder that we survived a powerful force of nature.


4th Avenue was transformed


4th avenue sank below street levelThe stories of survival are amazing

For those who were living in Anchorage when the quake struck, the picture above shows a familiar sidewalk where many had stood to watch the Fur Rendezvous winter carnival, the month before the quake.

Then, in just five minutes, it was all gone.

After the earthquake, many wondered if Anchorage would ever be the same again.


Reconstruction Begins


rebuilding after the 1964 quakeBringing back a part of Anchorage

The section of 4th Avenue shown above had sunk below street level, destroying many businesses during the quake.

But those who lived in Anchorage were determined to rebuild.

Looking at the picture above, it's difficult to believe that they were able to clean up all the devastation, and rebuild.

Today, 4th Avenue is a thriving part of Anchorage life.

For those who survived the quake, when reconstruction began, it brought a glimmer of hope for a brighter future.

Smiles began to return.

Conservative estimates put the damage at $500 million dollars. Of course, that was in 1964 dollars.

Federal Disaster funds weren't enough to cover the cost.


1964 Earthquake in Anchorage Alaska


While Anchorage has its fair share of earthquakes, the one on Good Friday, 1964 was much stronger and more destructive than any other one before or since. 

And those who experienced the terror and devastation first hand, still vividly recall their experiences – and always will.

Anchorage Memories wishes to thank all the survivors who contributed their stories.


What You Just Discovered


The 1964 Earthquake was a magnitude 9.2, or 35 times more powerful than the 1902 earthquake in San Francisco.

The shaking lasted nearly 5 minutes.

At the time, estimates of damage were somewhere around $500 million dollars. In today's dollars, we're looking at $4,787,255,806 and some change.

From reading the first-hand accounts on this page, written by survivors of the earthquake, you learned what they saw, heard and felt as the shaking continued.

As you learn about this horrific event, it's easy to see how Alaskans responded. They quickly stood up proudly, helped each other and together, they rebuilt Anchorage, the town they love.

Memories of the 1964 Earthquake in Anchorage Alaska, live on.


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