At 8:29 a.m., Nov. 30, 2018, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 slammed the Anchorage area.
For those who experienced the one on Good Friday of March 27, 1964, it brought back images of terror and gladsome memories of recovery.
That one was far more severe, registering 9.2 on the Richter scale. To be specific, it was the second-strongest earthquake ever recorded. Anywhere.
The 1964 Quake differed from this one. The November quake started with a violent up-and-down motion signaling that the epicenter was pretty close beneath us. The one 54 years ago lasted almost five full minutes. One witness was quoted on both national and local television saying that this one lasted about two minutes. Actually, it simmered down in less than a minute. But aftershocks continued for days, raising fears.
About 139 lives were lost on Good Friday of 1964. No fatalities had been reported so far for this event.
Three fires broke out during the shaking. Several roads were damaged and traffic was stopped. Power was out in some neighborhoods. Stores saw merchandise spilled and scattered. Television station KTVA showed considerable damage in their newsroom from ceiling tiles that fell and equipment toppled. An upstairs window was seen falling onto the ground below.
That station was on the air live not long after the shaking stopped, but its film was aired on Fox News minutes after it was taken. Reporters made information known as quickly as it was received. Survival tips were given, along with explanations of what had happened.
In 1964, reporters Jeannie Chance and Ty Clark of KENI radio in Anchorage set up a camper in the parking lot of the Anchorage Public Safety Building and began broadcasting within an hour or so of the disaster that started at 5:36 p.m. They avoided any mention of casualties—of which there were many. What they did do was to broadcast names of people who wanted friends and relatives to know they were OK. In those days there were no cell phones or social media pages, so that was an extremely vital service. So, too, were announcements of places to avoid and those where help was available.
Unlike this time when only a few neighborhoods were without power, in 1964 most of Southcentral Alaska went dark and stayed that way for up to a week.
Chugiak-Eagle River was one exception because Matanuska Electric Association was able to restore power to part of that area the next day. Water and sewer lines were broken; the Army set up stations around the area to provide potable water.
In both of those events, the weather was about the same, with temperatures hovering between teens and just over freezing.
In both events, nerves were jangled.
The slightest movement underfoot or the sound of a large truck engine being gunned was enough to cause one to rise and start toward safety. In 1964 the advice was to stand in a doorway. Today it is to duck under a sturdy table and grab onto it. Bailing out is an instinctive reaction, but danger awaits if objects fall from above.
Far more resources abound today than half a century ago. Alaska is better stocked with supplies. More importantly, changes were made in building codes to improve resistance to seismic forces. Also, zoning districts where unsuitable soil exists, such as the 4th Avenue bluff where buildings slid downhill after soil oozed out from under their foundations, now are zoned with that in mind.
Just as they did in the aftermath of the 1964 earthquake, Alaskans pulled together, checked on their neighbors, and helped each other. Alaskans then and now survived.