of the March 27, 1964 Alaska Tsunami In California
The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 28 March 1964
(UTC date - 27 March local date)) generated a great tsunami which
was extremely damaging, not only
in Alaska, but along Vancouver Island and Northern California. The tsunami waves
affected the entire California coastline but were particularly
high from Crescent City to Monterey with heights ranging from
2.1 - 6.3 meters (7-21 feet). Eleven persons lost their lives
in Crescent City and tsunami damage was estimated at $7,414,000(1964
dollars). The estimated losses elsewhere along California were
between $1,500,000 and $2,375,000 (1964 dollars). Extensive damage
occurred also in the Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbors.
Generating area of the
Alaska tsunami. Crosshatched area indicates (-) area of subsidence
and (+) area of uplift. Heavy dashed lines indicate the backwards
refracted tsunami wave fronts. Solid line marked by a zero is
the axis of rotation (no elevation change). Other solid lines
are titled as tectonic axes.
the tsunami waves in California
Santa Cruz Harbor: The waves reached as high as
3.3 meters (11 feet), sinking a hydraulic dredge and a 38 foot
cabin cruiser and causing minor damage to the floating docks.
Francisco Bay: Damage
in the Bay was largely to pleasure boats. The highest damage
was reported from marinas in Marin County where strong currents
induced by the tsunami caused boats and floating piers to break
loose and strike other craft.
Noyo Harbor: Damage was primarily to floating
piers and to commercial fishing vessels.
Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbors: Some damage occurred in the
Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbors.
Crescent City: Crescent City, was the hardest
hit town. The waves reached as much as 6 meters (20-21 feet)
and destroyed half of the waterfront business district. Eleven
persons lost their lives.
of Crescent City and Harbor
The Crescent City Harbor
is one of the oldest in California. Lumbering and timber products
are the major industries. Four waves struck the city. The travel
time of the first tsunami wave to Crescent City was 4.1 hrs after
the occurrence of the earthquake in Alaska. It caused no significant
damage other than flooding. The second and third waves were smaller
than the first. The fourth was the largest of the waves with
a height of approximately 20 to 21 feet. It was preceded by a
withdrawal of the water which left the inner harbor almost dry.
This fast moving fourth wave capsized 15 fishing boats. Three
other boats disappeared, and eight more sunk in the mooring area.
Several other boats were washed onto the beach. Extensive damage
was inflicted to the piers.
Aerial photo of Front
and G. Streets of Crescent City, two days after the 1964 tsunami
from Alaska struck, showing the destruction and displacement
The tsunami waves covered
the entire length of Front Street, and about thirty blocks of
Crescent City were devastated. Lumber, automobiles, and other
objects carried by the waves were responsible for a good portion
of the damage to the buildings in the area. Fires started when
the largest tsunami wave picked up a gasoline tank truck and
slammed it against electrical wires. The fire spread quickly
to the Texaco tank farm, which burned for three days. Final tsunami
damage in Crescent City was estimated at $7,414,000. (1964 dollars).
REFERENCES AND ADDITIONAL
BROWN, D.L., 1964.
Accompanying the Alaskan Earthquake of 27 March 1964, U.S. Army Engr. Dist., Alaska,
ms., 20 pp.
COX, D.C. and Pararas-Carayannis,
G. 1969. A Catalog of Tsunamis in Alaska. World Data Center A- Tsunami
Report, No. 2, 1969.
IIDA, K., D.C. Cox,
and Pararas--Carayannis, G. 1967.
of Tsunamis Occurring in the Pacific Ocean. Data Report No. 5. Honolulu: Hawaii Inst.Geophys.Aug.
George. A Study of
the Source Mechanism of the Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami of
March 27, 1964, Water Waves.
in Contributions of the H.I.G. University of Hawaii for the Year
1967. Honolulu: s.n., 1967, pp. 237.cont. No. IR4
George. Source Mechanism
Study of the Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami of 27 March 1964,
The Water Waves.
Pacific Science. Vol. XXI, No. 3, July 1967.
George. Catalog of
Tsunami in the Hawaiian Islands.
World Data Center A- Tsunami U.S. Dept. of Commerce Environmental
Science Service Administration Coast and Geodetic Survey, May
Mechanism of the Water Waves Produced." Reprinted from Pacific Science, Vol. 21,
No. 3, "A Study
of the Source Mechanism of the Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami
of March 27, 1964."
Volume on Seismology and Geodesy on the Great Alaska Earthquake
of 1964, National Academy of Sciences, Washington D.C., pp 249-258,
George, 2001. THE
BIG ONE - The Next Great California Earthquake, Aston-Forbes Press, 375pp.
SPAETH, M.G. and S.C.
Berkman, 1965, 1967. The Tsunami of March 38, 1964
as Recorded at Tide Stations,
U.S. Coast and Geod. Survey, 59 pp. (1965). Ibid. ESSA Coast
and Geod. Survey Tech. Bull. 33, 85 pp. (1967)
Tsunami Threat in California
March 27, 1964, Great Alaska Earthquake
Mechanism of the March 27, 1964, Great Alaska Earthquake and
March 27, 1964 Tsunami in the Gulf of Alaska
March 27, 1964 Tsunami Waves in Prince William Sound, Alaska
Effects of the March 27, 1964 Alaska Tsunami in Canada
Effects of the March 27, 1964 Alaska Tsunami in the Hawaiian
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