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1964: A Distant Quake, a Disastrous California Tsunami

| March 11, 2011
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A massive distant earthquake and the possibility of a tsunami on the West Coast: In California, that stirs memories of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake in Alaska and the subsequent destructive wave that hit the North Coast.

Here’s a summary of what happened from USC’s Tsunami Research Group:

” Tsunami waves killed a total of 12 people, and caused an estimated 17 million dollars in damage. Of the 12 deaths, 10 occurred in Crescent City, which, due to bathymitry, was struck by a unusually large 21-foot wave. The tsunami flooded a large portion of the city, causing approximately 15 million dollars in damage. Further down the coast, wave heights at Humbolt Bay and Eureka reached 14 feet. The tsunami caused an esimated 1 million dollars in damage to San Francisco Bay, where it was only 3.7 feet high! Wave heights reached 10.1 feet at Half Moon Bay, 10 feet a Santa Cruz, 8.5 feet in Monterey, and 6.5 feet in San Diego. One person died in Los Angeles, when the 6-foot tsunami surge struck the Cerritos Channel.

And here’s an excellent 2005 NPR retrospective on the Crescent City disaster: California Town Still Scarred by 1964 Tsunami

And finally, for now, a rather frenetic montage of 1964 Crescent City tsunami images:

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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