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Olympic Peninsula, Wa

The 1964 Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami: Olympic Peninsula Impact

TOP 5 Images of 1964 Earthquake: http://bit.ly/1l85K4w



March 27th, 2014

50 years ago, on March 27th, 1964, life in Grays Harbor was drastically different. The logging industry around Aberdeen and Hoquiam was huge, continuing a boom in the area that had been surging for over 80 years. The cities were rough and tumble and only for the most burly of individuals. In town, it was common to see loggers, long since or freshly retired, without fingers, hands and sometimes even feet. The city wasn’t glamourous, nor was it that pretty, with rivers and the harbor being clogged with logging debris and pollution.


Grays Harbor in the 60's

Grays Harbor in the 60’s


50 years ago in 1964, the city of Ocean Shores, located on the north of Grays Harbor and along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, was only 4 years old. Plans were being made for sheer awesomeness, and Pat Boone was soon going to be a resident. In fact, by 1967, Ocean Shores was declared the richest little city in America by numerous reputable new sources. However, on March 27th, 1964, the world knew nothing of the area… most still do not.


(Ocean Shores info: http://exotichikes.com/an-ex-locals-guide-to-ocean-shores/)


Ocean Shores in the 60s from graysharbordown.com

Ocean Shores in the 60s from graysharbordown.com


In 1964, residents of cities all along the Pacific Ocean coast, from the Olympic Peninsula down to Crescent City, California, had no idea that in a few short hours, their coastal communities would be blindsided by a wave that would kill 119 people with little to no warning.


1964 Alaska Earthquake Damage

1964 Alaska Earthquake Damage


At 5:35 PM Pacific Standard Time, all was well along the coast from Alaska to California and out to Hawaii, but one minute later, a 9.2 earthquake in Alaska’s gorgeous Prince William Sound would ruin lives, cities, coast lines and a small bridge along the Olympic Peninsula.


(About the 1964 Alaska Earthquake: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/states/events/1964_03_28.php)


As  Alaska shook and fell apart, like a guy who drank too much Redbull trying to eat a taco, a surge of water was building up, preparing to destroy as much coastline as it could.


The residents of Cannon Beach, Oregon, Copalis, Washington and Crescent City, California carried on their normal evening schedules. In a few short hours, a tsunami would hit the American West Coast.


The washed out Copalis Bridge in 1964.

The washed out Copalis Bridge in 1964, thanks to a tsunami from Alaska


While damage was extensive in Alaska, and cost nearly 400 million dollars to repair, Tsunami damage was sporadic. In Alaska, the waves were well over 20 feet tall in areas, while Catalina Island by Los Angeles had a 10 foot high tidal surge slam into it.


Luckily, most of the areas that were hit hardest were not heavily populated, or the death toll of 119 people would have been much higher. The Olympic Peninsula, was spared for the most part, with the exception of some coastline being reclaimed by the sea and a bridge over the Copalis River was washed away, stranding residents for a few days.


(Think that is scary? Check out the report on the 1946 Alaska Quake that caused a 55 foot wave in Hawaii: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1946_Aleutian_Islands_earthquake )


High tides impacted the entire Puget Sound Region, as well as along the Washington Coast. In Seattle, tides fluctuated for 30 hours, leaving high tide over 3 feet above normal. In Neah Bay, a high tide was recorded at over 4 feet above what it was supposed to be. Even down in the supposedly protected Hood Canal, the tide was three feet above the projected high tide mark.


Always obey these signs!

Always obey these signs!


Thanks to the 1964 Alaska Earthquake, signs help navigate locals away from Tsunami danger areas all along the Pacific Coast. Sirens have been set up in coastal towns with drill being carried out regularly. Evacuations come often; the 1997 earthquake in Kobe, Japan that caused my forced evacuation of Ocean Shores as a High School student comes to mind, though the tide rose only 1 foot.


Tsunami warning happen all the time, and adhering to them and knowing the area you travel to is extremely important. If a large tsunami producing earthquake hits the plate off the Washington Coast, you will have as little as 15 minutes to get to higher ground.


50 years ago, the research on the fault-lines was unknown, and luckily things weren’t worse. We escaped a larger tragedy all those years ago, and the technology we have now should help save lives in the future.  A tsunami will someday hit the Olympic Peninsula coast, causing mayhem and destruction at a level that will bring tears to our eyes, but thanks to that bridge in Copalis, the region has a plan to save as many people as possible.



Impact of 1964 Alaska Earthquake on the Washington Coast:


  • $80,000 in Damage. Mainly to homes, cars, boats and fishing gear
  • Wave sizes
    • Copalis: 5 to 6 feet
    • Moclips: 11 Feet
    • LaPush: 5 Feet


For more information on the 1964 Alaska Earthquake:


Great info for awareness: http://washingtondnr.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/national-tsunami-week-time-to-raise-awareness-of-threat-to-washingtons-coasts/

History: http://nisquallyquake.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/some-coverage-of-the-1964-alaska-earthquake-and-tsunami/

Details: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/states/events/1964_03_28.php

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