At 5:36 p.m. on March 27, 1964, a 9.2-magnitude earthquake erupted 78 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska. The earthquake remains the most powerful earthquake to strike North America, and the second-largest earthquake ever measured.
In addition to more than three minutes of shaking, the earthquake unleashed unimaginable devastation to Alaska's landscape, including tsunamis, liquefaction, ground fissures, avalanches, and underwater landslides. The coastline was resculpted, and some areas saw the earth raised as high as 30 feet. In the days after the earthquake, 11 aftershocks were recorded with a magnitude greater than 6.2.
Only 139 people died in the earthquake, however, and only 15 as a direct result of the quake itself. Most people died from the two tsunamis, including 5 people in Oregon and 13 in California. Many areas of Anchorage and Juneau had to be completely redeveloped. Here are some of the most incredible photos taken after the biggest U.S. quake ever.
In Anchorage, the Denali Theater collapsed in a landslide, causing its marquee to rest on the sidewalk
Ground fissures like this were so powerful they displaced concrete foundations and severed utility lines
All photos by USGS