1964 Earthquake Memories
by Ron Moore
Anchorage DJ Ron Moore
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 behind me, but I could see through a mirror above me.
There was a loud sound I thought was an airplane since QD was in a flight plan to the airport. As it became louder, Scotty closed his mic switch and took off.
I said, “one moment Please” and headed for the door to the control center to see what was going on.
A safe on wheels had exited the bookkeeper's office and rolled down the hall and slammed into the door as I opened it. So, I went back to the control center and a large wall-mounted speaker had fallen on the console, so I chose to kill the power to the equipment and climbed over the safe, which was not an easy task.
As I headed for the door, I noticed Nancy Peck, daughter of aviation legend Jack Peck, pinned against the wall at the top of the stairs, which were a good 10 feet above the parking lot. So, I grabbed Nancy and helped her down the stairs where we stood watching the car's rear end bounce around with engines in the front those days.
The tower guy wires were also a concern because they could give way and the tower could head towards the parking lot where everyone was trying to hold on.
The quake seemed to take forever, but as the quake subsided, everyone but yours truly took off to see what had happened to their homes.
I went inside and saw extensive damage throughout and headed downstairs where there were two large diesel generators that had never been used. I was only involved once with how they operated.
It was hard to see down there. The first generator didn't turn over but the second started and immediately filled the room with black choking smoke. I had forgotten to open the exhaust pipe that went outside.
In the next room, a light bulb came on, and I switched power from normal to generator. Upstairs the meters on the transmitter that took up an entire wall were barely moving. But I found a portable radio and went into the control room and hard-wired a mic around the console to feed directly to the transmitter. I heard feedback, so I knew we were getting out somewhat.
That was 18 minutes after the quake stopped and for 54 hours I stayed on the air.
Largely because most staffers couldn't get by the fissures in the road, and I was unable to get home.
I found out later that my wife, who was working downtown at the time, and her Dad and my son were in front of the Anchorage Westward Hotel (Now the Hilton) to pick her up. They escaped the falling debris from the front of the hotel.
Most of my time on the air was spent delivering messages to listeners, so they could find shelter and supplies to stay warm on a chilly March night. There wasn't any emergency communications except from car to car for the police and emergency personnel, so the Civil Defense people brought a radio to the control room and asked me to repeat messages throughout the next several days.
We directed our messages to a different part of town every 5 minutes, so people could save batteries on their radios.
One of the few reports of vandalism was about people breaking into stores to get batteries. Radio was an undeniable friend back then.
By the way, I didn't know for quite a while how extensive the damage was citywide until the KFQD chief engineer came back to the station. He told me he could hear me OK and that his two-story house two blocks away on Clay Products Road now had the second floor at ground level.
During a break on the front porch at night I saw fires burning in the city, largely from gas explosions. Fears during the night of a Tidal Wave never materialized and the aftershocks that continued for days kept us all on edge.
KFQD and other broadcasters cut back on their operations for a long time since they weren't sure whether Anchorage was going to recover or how soon.
So, I went on the air from afternoons to overnight for a couple of months and worked with the Anchorage Jaycees to solicit donations from other Jaycees nationwide.
Quite an experience and one I will never forget.
BONUSGreat Alaskan Earthquake Survivor
A powerful story about a young teenage girl caught in the JC Penney building during the 1964 earthquake.
An amazing story of survival.
Take a look at Great Alaskan Earthquake Survivor