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Professional Paper 543–F

Ground Breakage and Associated Effects in the Cook Inlet Area, Alaska, Resulting from the March 27, 1964, Earthquake

By Helen L. Foster and Thor N.V. Karlstrom

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (13.9 MB)Abstract

The great 1964 Alaska earthquake caused considerable ground breakage in the Cook Inlet area of south-central Alaska. The breakage occurred largely in thick deposits of unconsolidated sediments. The most important types of ground breakage were (1) fracturing or cracking and the extrusion of sand and gravel with ground water along fractures in various types of landforms, and (2) slumping and lateral extension of unconfined faces, particularly along delta fronts.

The principal concentration of ground breakage within the area covered by this report was in a northeast-trending zone about 60 miles long and 6 miles wide in the northern part of the Kenai Lowland. The zone cut across diverse topography and stratigraphy. Cracks were as much as 30 feet across and 25 feet deep. Sand, gravel, and pieces of coal and lignite were extruded along many fissures. It is suggested that the disruption in this zone may be due to movement along a fault in the underlying Tertiary rocks.

The outwash deltas of Tustumena and Skilak Lakes in the Kenai Lowland, of Eklutna Lake and Lake George in the Chugach Mountains, of Bradley Lake in the Kenai Mountains, and at the outlet of upper Beluga Lake at the base of the Alaska Range showed much slumping, as did the delta of the Susitna River. Parts of the flood plains of the Skilak River, Fox River, and Eagle River were extensively cracked.

A few avalanches and slumps occurred along the coast of Cook Inlet in scattered localities. Some tidal flats were cracked. However, in view of the many thick sections of unconsolidated sediments and the abundance of steep slopes, the cracking was perhaps less than might have been expected.

Observations along the coasts indicated changes in sea level which, although caused partly by compaction of unconsolidated sediments, may largely be attributed to crus1tal deformation accompanying the earthquake. Most of the Cook Inlet area was downwarped, although the northwest side of Cook Inlet may have been slightly unwarped. Maximum change in the Cook Inlet area was probably less than 6 feet. Little or no regional tilting was detected in the lake basins of Tustumena and Skilak Lakes.

First posted October 17, 2012
Revised August 13, 2013

For additional information:
Contact Information, Menlo Park, Calif.
   Office—Earthquake Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
345 Middlefield Road, MS 977
Menlo Park, CA 94025

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Suggested citation:

Foster, H.L., and Karlstrom, T.N.V., 1967, Ground breakage and associated effects in the Cook Inlet area, Alaska, resulting from the March 27, 1964, earthquake: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 543–F, 28 p., 3 sheets, scales 1:250,000, 1:1,000,000, and 1:63,360,




Location and Physiographic Setting


Slide and Slide-generated Waves


Spreading of Delta Sediments

Ground Fractures on Deltas


References Cited

Two plates

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