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1964 Earthquake Continues to Resonate with Alaskan Landscape

Published On: Jul 30 2013 12:10:00 PM AKDT

KTUU reporter Rebecca Palsha takes a look at how building standards for homes have changed since the 1964 quake. (KTUU-TV, 7-19-13)


Peter Dunlap-Shohl was 5-years-old when the earthquake of 1964 changed the landscape of Alaska.

At the time Dunlap-Shohl and his three brothers and sisters were watching TV, Fireball XL5. Their parents were out of town in Hawaii on a late honeymoon. The family was living on Chillagain Drive in Turnagain at the time.

While Dunlap-Shohl, a cartoonist, talked about the earthquake he drifted back and forth between joking about the little damage sustained to his home, and then turned serious as he looked at the areas where his former neighbors used to live. Places where only trees and heavy brush cover up dramatic drops where homes fell into the inlet and where two children were killed.

“It was another sleepy suburban day,” Dunlap-Shohl said, “and underneath there was a tension waiting to break through and it did. All hell broke loose.”

More than 100 Alaskans were killed by the 9.2 magnitude quake, most of which a result of the tsunami that followed.

Since the quake, new homes and buildings have been constructed in the Turnagain, Government Hill and downtown areas. Engineers who choose to develop in high-risk places are required to have geo-technical reports and thick layers of concrete pored under the buildings. Engineers say that in Anchorage it’s the ground failures that produce the most destruction. That’s when the ground shifts and rips apart.

The thick base layer of concrete is meant to help the home ride out a quake.

“In a simple term when you’re designing a home or building for an area where there’s ground failure potential, you’re pretty much designing a boat,” Sharen Walsh an engineer and deputy director and building office with the city said, “(One) that can ride on the ground failures, and try to hold together to protect the occupants.”

For more information, click here.

And here’s the link to our website and the Seismic Zone Hazard Maps.