PSASG Exclusive!

The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964


A Survivor’s Account of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake
by Leah Facto of Micco, Florida

The 1964 Alaska Earthquake
• 9.2 On the Richter Scale
• Lasting Nearly 5 Minutes
• The Most Powerful Recorded Earthquake in U.S. and North American History

Memories of a 16 Year Old—March 27, 1964
I was only sixteen years old at the time, living on the island of Kodiak, Alaska. My father was in the Navy and stationed at the base there. It was Good Friday and I had planned with a girlfriend to attend services that day. At the last minute, however, like typical teenagers, we decided to change our plans and go hang out with friends at the “Gedunk,” the local burger parlor.

About 3:30 that afternoon, I returned home thinking that I had really gotten away with something. Little did I know that my father was well aware of where I had been that day because I had been spotted by one of his employees. So when he got home about an hour later, I was immediately confronted about my true whereabouts and immediately grounded for two weeks.

In Seconds Our House Was Shaking Violently
It was only seconds later that our whole house started shaking violently. Our car, easily viewed through the window, was rocking back and forth on its axes. In the house, china was rattling and furniture was moving. Suddenly, in anticipation that the roof would come crashing in, my mother pushed me under the coffee table.

A few minutes later, the base police could be heard yelling through a megaphone, “Get to high ground immediately, a tidal wave is coming.” As history would later record, that was by far the greatest obstacle faced by inhabitants of the remote volcanic island of Kodiak. The mountainous nature of the island offered few places at higher altitudes that could be reached by car. One of these was the NCO (non-commissioned officers) club that soon became the designated shelter for people fleeing the flood waters. From that point, I can recall watching as the last plane for many days attempted to land and then abort its attempt because of the severely cracked and damaged runway. It became obvious that it would be at least a week or more before any other supplies would arrive at our remote island.

A Missing Classmate Swept Away by Floodwaters
It was at the shelter that we learned that one family was missing a son — a classmate of mine. None of us were overly concerned because we had never experienced anything like this before and certainly had no idea as to the damage that forceful waters could cause. A few days later, however, we learned that our classmate had been swept away by floodwaters and drowned while on a scout camping trip. The news was certainly devastating, but as it turned out, the classmate was the only fatality on the entire island.

Reports of Kodiak Island Completely Under Water Following the quake, radio communications on the island could be received, but nothing could go out. I can recall sitting up on a hill listening to one announcer report that Kodiak Island was completely under water and there were no survivors. I later learned that my hometown paper actually wrote a story about my family dying in the quake.

It was the amateur (ham) radio operators who were finally able to patch through communications to all of our families off the island, letting them know that we were indeed alive and well. read more...

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