Tsunami, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Volcanic Eruptions and other Natural and Man-Made Hazards and Disasters - by Dr. George Pararas Carayannis

Tsunami, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Volcanic Eruptions and other Natural and Man-Made Hazards and Disasters

The Effects of the March 28, 1964 Alaska Tsunami in British Columbia, Canada

George Pararas-Carayannis

Tsunami Education |Educational Degrees | Online MBA | MBA Education | MBA Courses | College Courses



The Great Alaskan Earthquake of March 28, 1964 generated a tsunami which was also destructive in British Columbia, Canada, and in the U.S. States of Washington, California and Hawaii. The tsunami waves were particularly destructive at Vancouver Island. Serious damage occurred at Alberni and Port Alberni.

Tsunami Run up Heights and Tide Gauge Measurements

As recorded at tide gauges, the tsunami height was 1.4 meters at Prince Rupert and 1.2 meters at Tofino. Actual tsunami runup was higher.

Tsunami Travel Times

The tsunami generating area of the 1964 earthquake was very extensive.

The first wave to arrive at shores and tide stations in British Columbia had its origin at the deeper part of the source region in the Gulf of Alaska, near Kodiak and Trinity Islands.

The tsunami travel times were : Prince Rupert 3.3 hours; Tofino 3.8 hrs. The first wave was not necessarily the highest. Subsequent, more significant waves - from the shallower part of the tsunami source generating area - reached the West Coast of Canada and Vancouver Island at a later time.

The tsunami travel time to Port Alberni was 4.1 hrs.

The twin cities of Alberni and Port Alberni are situated at the head of a 35 mile long inlet on the west coast of Vancouver Island. This accounts for the longer tsunami travel time. However, the tsunami travel time to Alberni and Port Alberni, as reported by the newspapers and the Civil Defense, appears to be longer. There was a two hour difference. This is because first wave arrival was reported in local, daylight savings time, and not in GMT. The time discrepancy is evident from the seismogram of the 1964 Alaska earthquake by the the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, which recorded the quake at 7:36, Victoria time, a difference of two hours - which serves to explain the discrepancies in reporting.

Tsunami Damage at Port Alberni

Tsunami Periods

The shallowness of the continental shelf in the Gulf of Alaska contributed to the long period of the waves, the dipole movement of the crustal displacements, and many other factors of a complex source mechanism, the significant waves may have indeed reached Port Alberni as late as 5.5 hours after the earthquake. Tsunami periods as measured from tide gauge records were as follows: Prince Rupert 92 minutes; Tofino 20 minutes.

Tsunami Effects

The shape and configuration of the inlet were the reason for the extensive flooding that occurred at Alberni and Port Alberni. The first wave to reach the head of the inlet caused major flooding but was not particularly damaging. It served as a warning for people to evacuate. It was the second wave - almost an hour later - that came with much greater force and caused the greater damage by carrying homes and cars inland. A total of 375 dwellings were damaged, with 55 being totally lost.

Other areas of Vancouver island sustained damage. At the village of Hot Springs Cove, 16 of its 18 homes were destroyed. At the community of Zeballos, 30 dwellings were moved off their foundations and their contents were damaged. At the small logging community of Amai, 10 homes were damaged.

Loss of Lives and Damages

There was no loss of lives on Vancouver Island or anywhere else in Canada. Damage was estimated at $ 10 million (1964 dollars).





Photos of tsunami effects at Port Alberni - courtesy of British Columbia Provincial Emergency Program.


BRITISH COLUMBIA CIVIL DEFENCE, 1964. Special Report on Alberni Tidal Wave Disaster, Provencial emergency Program. 38pp.

BROWN, D.L., 1964. Tsunami Activity Accompanying the Alaskan Earthquake of 27 March 1964, U.S. Army Engr. Dist., Alaska, ms., 20 pp.

IIDA, K., D.C. Cox, and Pararas--Carayannis, George, 1967. Preliminary Catalog of Tsunamis Occurring in the Pacific Ocean. Data Report No. 5. Honolulu: Hawaii Inst.Geophys.Aug. 1967.

IIDA, K., D.C. Cox, and G. Pararas-Carayannis, 1967b. Bibliography to the Preliminary Catalog of Tsunamis Occurring in the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii Inst. Geophys. Data Rpt. 6, HIG-67-25, Univ. of Hawaii, 27 pp.

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)

WHITE, W.R.H., 1966. The Alaska Earthquake...its Effects in Canada, Canadian Geogr. Journ., v. 72, no. 6, pp. 210-219.

See also:

Additional photos of Tsunami Damage at Alberni and Port Alberni

The March 27, 1964, Great Alaska Earthquake

Source Mechanism of the March 27, 1964, Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami

The March 27, 1964 Tsunami in the Gulf of Alaska

The March 27, 1964 Tsunami Waves in Prince William Sound, Alaska

The Effects of the March 27, 1964 Alaska Tsunami In California

The Effects of the March 27, 1964 Alaska Tsunami in the Hawaiian Islands

Return to

Links to other Pages

NEW BOOK - THE BIG ONE- The Next Great California Earthquake

now available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other major bookstores. It can be also ordered by

contacting directly Aston Forbes Press.



(©) Copyright 1963-2005 George Pararas-Carayannis / all rights reserved / Information on this site is for viewing and personal information only - protected by copyright. Any unauthorized use or reproduction of material from this site without written permission is prohibited.
Web Site Created By Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis / Copyright © 2000. All Rights Reserved