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:

1964: A Distant Quake, a Disastrous California Tsunami 11 March,2011Dan Brekke


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at: dbrekke@kqed.org

Twitter: twitter.com/danbrekke
Facebook: www.facebook.com/danbrekke
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/danbrekke

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor