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Famous Earthquakes in History

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Alaska's “Good Friday” Earthquake

At 10:36 p.m., March 27, 1964 one hour and ten minutes after the full of the moon which was crossing the Equator from the northern hemisphere to the southern (a time of heavy earthquake probability), Anchorage and other cities of Alaska experienced a temblor of from 8.2 to 8.7 magnitude. The known death toll was 129 lives—damage some five hundred millions of dollars.

An accompanying tsunami smashed cities and towns rimming the Gulf of Alaska and on Kodiak Island. The seismic waves rushed on to swallow up as many more individuals along the Pacific Coast from Canada to Southern California. In Crescent City, California alone, ten died and fifty were missing. Tidal wave warnings went up, also, in Japan and Hawaii.

The Three–State Quake of 1959

A mountain toppled, a new lake was made, 9 died, 19 missing, 15 injured, 250 vacationists barely escaped disaster, geysers were choked off while others were given new life—thus did the night of August 17, 1959 go out and the morning of the 18th come in. The main shock of this quake occurred very near the junction of Montana's Routes 187 and 191, a few miles south of the Northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park.

The main shock started an avalanche of some 80 million tons of rock from one side of the Madison River Valley. Most of the quake's victims were killed because of this rock slide. It also created a new lake, called Earthquake Lake, which extends for about 5 miles up the Madison River and is over 100 feet deep.

This earthquake ranks as one of the six strongest to hit the continental U.S.

The Great Quake of 1886 at Charleston, S.C.

Charleston, South Carolina's memorable Tuesday, August 31, 1886, began reasonably calm with a warm, still sunny morning. The evening failed to cool, the mellow brick walls retaining the day's heat. The Ashley and Cooper Rivers were dead calm, mirroring the constellations in the clear sky. Dance music drifted from the pavilion on James Island where young people socialized. The heat had tired the aged, and they were either in bed or about to retire.

At 9:51 p.m., 12 miles below the surface and 16 miles west of New York City, the earth ruptured in a mountain system extending to within a few miles west of New York City. With vibrations racing 3 miles a second, shock waves sped out over 2,800,000 square miles.

The quake lasted in Charleston for 3 days. A total of 17 shocks had destroyed more than 100 buildings, 90% of brick structures, and caused about $5 million to $6 million in damage nationally. Astonishingly, only 40 people died; 27 were from Charleston.


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