Effects of the earthquake of March 27, 1964, on air and water transport, communications, and utilities systems in south-central Alaska

Professional Paper 545-B



The earthquake of March 27, 1964, wrecked or severely hampered all forms of transportation, all utilities, and all communications systems over a very large part of south-central Alaska. Effects on air transportation were minor as compared to those on the water, highway, and railroad transport systems. A few planes were damaged or wrecked by seismic vibration or by flooding. Numerous airport facilities were damaged by vibration or by secondary effects of the earthquake, notably seismic sea and landslide-generated waves, tectonic subsidence, and compaction. Nearly all air facilities were partly or wholly operational within a few hours after the earthquake. The earthquake inflicted enormous damage on the shipping industry, which is indispensable to a State that imports fully 90 percent of its requirements—mostly by water—and whose largest single industry is fishing. Except for those of Anchorage, all port facilities in the earthquake-affected area were destroyed or made inoperable by submarine slides, waves, tectonic uplift, and fire. No large vessels were lost, but more than 200 smaller ones (mostly crab or salmon boats) were lost or severely damaged. Navigation aids were destroyed, and hitherto well-known waterways were greatly altered by uplift or subsidence. All these effects wrought far-reaching changes in the shipping economy of Alaska, many of them to its betterment. Virtually all utilities and communications in south-central Alaska were damaged or wrecked by the earthquake, but temporary repairs were effected in remarkably short times. Communications systems were silenced almost everywhere by loss of power or by downed lines; their place was quickly taken by a patchwork of self-powered radio transmitters. A complex power-generating system that served much of the stricken area from steam, diesel, and hydrogenerating plants was disrupted in many places by vibration damage to equipment and by broken transmission lines. Landslides in Anchorage broke gas-distribution lines in many places, but the main transmission line from the Kenai Peninsula was virtually undamaged. Petroleum supplies were disrupted, principally by breakage or loss of storage tanks caused by seismic vibration, slides, waves, and fire. Water-supply and sewer lines were also broken in many towns.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Effects of the earthquake of March 27, 1964, on air and water transport, communications, and utilities systems in south-central Alaska
Series title Professional Paper
Series number 545
Chapter B
DOI 10.3133/pp545B
Year Published 1967
Language English
Publisher U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Menlo ParkCalif. Office-Earthquake Science Center
Description vi, 27 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Larger Work Title The Alaska earthquake, March 27, 1964: effects on transportation, communications, and utilities (Professional Paper 545)
Country United States
State Alaska
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