Monday, April 28, 2014

The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964

Fifty years ago today, the Great Alaskan Earthquake on the evening of March 27, 1964 – Good Friday – would see Storis rise to the challenge of providing humanitarian and military support that would help a wide area of Alaska stricken by the quake and resulting tsunamis. Storis was on patrol in the Bering Sea when word came over the military radio that a major earthquake had occurred at 5:36 p.m. local time, leaving devastation across wide areas of Alaska. Massive tsunamis caused by that followed the original seismic event caused additional catastrophic damage. Storis was directed to return to her home port of Kodiak, which had been severely damaged. Around mid-day on Easter Sunday, Storis entered Womens Bay and found her home port difficult to recognize with the resultant damage. Storis offloaded her helicopter and docked to refuel. Crewmen were briefly allowed to meet with family members that had been able to make it to the dock, but with communication and road networks largely cut off, many did not know how their families living outside the Coast Guard base had fared through the quake. After approximately ninety minutes, Storis cast off to head for Homer, Alaska.

Other cutters were dispatched around Alaskan waters for the relief mission, known as “Operation Helping Hand.” These included the high-endurance cutter USCGC Minnetonka (WHEC-67) and buoy tender USCGC Sorrel (WAGL-296) to Prince William Sound, buoy tender USCGC Bittersweet (WAGL-389) to Seward and buoy tender USCGC Sedge (WAGL-402) to Valdez. At Homer Spit, Storis met a group of small vessels, tugboats and barges waiting for her to break a track through Cook Inlet to reach the devastated city of Anchorage. Storis escorted unloaded relief vessels from Anchorage on the return trip to open water. She stayed on station for three weeks escorting convoys to and from Anchorage before returning to Kodiak April 20. In the years following the earthquake, Storis assisted the University of Alaska in the construction of experimental seismological stations in the Aleutian Islands. In August 1969, Storis would participate in another scientific study between the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey, east of Point Barrow in the Beaufort Sea.

The earthquake and ensuing tsunami killed 128 people, 113 by tsunami action in Alaska and the coast of the Pacific Northwest. The quake registered 9.2 on the Richter scale, the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded, and caused approximately $311 million in damage.

KMXT Radio in Kodiak is blogging about the commemoration of the earthquake at

The posted photo shows damage to Kodiak in the aftermath of the tsunami.

(Originally posted March 27, 2014)

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