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Largest Earthquakes in the US

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A Train thrown down by the San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906

A Train thrown down by the San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906

In the US, Alaska is the most earthquake-prone state and one of the most seismically active regions in the world. Alaska experiences a magnitude 7 earthquake almost every year, and a magnitude 8 or greater earthquake on an average of every 14 years.

The largest recorded earthquake in the United States was a magnitude 9.2 quake that struck Prince William Sound, Alaska on Good Friday, March 28, 1964 UTC. Each year the southern California area has about 10,000 earthquakes. Most of them are so small that they are not felt. Only several hundreds are greater than magnitude 3.0, and only about 15-20 are greater than magnitude 4.0.

From 1975-1995 there were only four states in the US that did not have any earthquakes. They were: Florida, Lowa, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Earthquakes occur in the central portion of the United States too! Some very powerful earthquakes occurred along the New Madrid fault in the Mississippi Valley in 1811-1812. The largest recorded earthquake in the worldwas a magnitude 9.5 in Chile on May 22, 1960.

Listed below are a few of the largest earthquakes that occurred in the US.

1. Alaska Earthquake (Montague Island in Prince William Sound)

Date: March 28, 1964

Time: 03:36 UTC

Fatalities: 128 lives (tsunami 113, earthquake 15)

Property loss: $311 million

Magnitude: 9.2

Details of the incident:

This Alaskan Earthquake of March 28, 1964 uplifted the sea floor at CapeCleare on MontagueIsland in Prince William Sound. This is the area of the greatest recorded tectonic uplift on land (33 feet). The earthquake was accompanied by a vertical displacement over an area of about 520,000 square kilometers which ranged from about 11.5 meters of uplift to 2.3 meters of subsidence relative to sea level. This shock also generated a tsunami that devastated many towns along the Gulf of Alaska, and left serious damage at Alberni and Port Alberni, Canada, along the West Coast of the United States, and in Hawaii. The maximum wave height recorded was 67 meters at Valdez Inlet. This great earthquake and ensuing tsunami took 128 lives (tsunami 113, earthquake 15), and caused about $311 million in property loss. This earthquake affected many towns including Anchorage, Chitina, Glennallen, Homer, Hope, Kasilof, Kenai, Kodiak, MoosePass, Portage, Seldovia, Seward, Sterling, Valdez, Wasilla, and Whittier.

2. Andreanof Islands, Alaska (Aleutian Tsunami)

Date: March 9, 1957

Time: 14:22 UTC

Property loss: $5 million (in 1957)

Fatalities: None

Magnitude: 8.3

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Details of the incident:

On March 9, 1957, at 14:22 UTC, an earthquake occurred south of the Andreanof Islands, in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. The earthquake destroyed two bridges on AdakIsland, damaged houses, and left a 4.5 meter crack in a road. MountVsevidof erupted after being dormant for 200 years. This earthquake triggered a tsunami across the pacific. No lives were lost and the Hawaiian Islands suffered the greatest with damage costs approximately $5 million dollars. bridges were destroyed and sections of highways were flooded at Haena in Hawaii and waves reached a height of 16 m. Houses were washed out and destroyed at Wainiha and Kalihiwai. The Coconut Island In Hilo Bay, was covered by 1 m of water and the bridge connecting it to shore was destroyed.

The tsunami also caused minor damage in San Diego Bay, California, and also travelled to distant countries such as Chile, El Salvador, Japan, and other areas in the Pacific region. More than 300 aftershocks were reported along the southern edge of the Aleutians, from Unimak Island to AmchitkaPass.

3. Rat Islands, Alaska

Date: Feb. 4, 1965

Time: 05:01:21.6 and 08:40:42.1 UTC

Property loss: $10,000

Magnitude: 8.7

Details of the incident:

This great earthquake occurred in the Rat Islands and the magnitude was 8.7. it ruptured a 600km segment of the western end of the Aleutian islands. Wooden buildings experienced cracks On Adak Island, and on ShemyaIsland, cracks were observed in an asphalt runway. Hairline cracks also formed in the runways at the U.S. Coast Guard Loran Station on AttuIsland.

This earthquake generated a tsunami reported to be about 10.7 meters high on ShemyaIsland. Loss caused by flooding on AmchitkaIsland was estimated at about $10,000.

Site of earthquake

Site of earthquake

4. East of Shumagin Islands, Alaska

Date: Nov. 10, 1938

Time: 20:18:41.2 UTC

Magnitude: 8.3

Details of the incident:

A major submarine earthquake, centered in a sparsely populated area, was felt stringly at FalsePass, Unimak Island. It also was reported at Port Moller and Anchorage. The earthquake generated a small tsunami, which was recorded at Dutch harbor, Seward, and Sitka, Alaska, and at Hilo and Honolulu, Hawaii

5. Lituya Bay, Alaska

Date: July 10, 1958

Time: 06:15:53.6 UTC

Fatalities: 5

Magnitude: 8.3

Details of the incident:

This was the largest earthquake in southeast Alaska since the Yakutat shocks of 1899. three people were killed on Khantaak Island (in Yakutat Bay), when the north end of the island slumped into the sea, and two people were missing and presumed dead in Lituya Bay from a wave generated by the collapse of 300 million cubic meters of rock into Gilbert Bay. The epicenter of this quake was a scant 13 miles from LityuaBay. The earthquake caused a large landslide in the bay, which produced a local tsunami of frightening size. At Yakutat, bridges, docks, and oil lines were damaged, a water tower fell, and a few cabins were destroyed. Large landslides were reported in the mountains. the largest wave was 1720 feet high. Millions of trees were uprooted and swept away by the wave. This is the highest wave that has ever been known. Many sand blows and ground cracks occurred at DryBay and Yakutat and submarine cables were severed in the Haines-Skagway area and at Lena Point. Slight damage also occurred at AukeBay, Barabof, Juneau, Pelican, and Sitka.

A massive rockslide occurred at the head of LituyaBay which caused water to rise about 530 meters. A few fishing boats might have disappeared. The earthquake was felt over a large area of southeast Alaska, as far south as Seattle, Washington, and east to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.

6. Yakutat Bay, Alaska

Date: Sept. 10, 1899

Time: 17:04 and 21:41 UTC

Magnitude: 7.4 (Foreshock), 8.2 (Main Shock)

Details of the incident:

In september 1899 the Yakutat bay was shaken by a series of earthquakes. The most violent one was felt for over 400 kilometers. The main earthquake that caused great destruction was the one on the 10th of September 1899. the devastation was not studied for 6 years. But later it was discovered that an uplift of 14.5 metres occurred on the west coast of DisenchantmentBay throwing people off their feet. Also a tsunami of 10.6 metres height occurred in the YakutatBay and other places along the Alaskan coast.

This earthquake shattered glaciers and took several years for the fractured parts to reach the sea. Many large aftershocks occurred in September and the following months

Location of earthquake

Location of earthquake

7. Near Cape Yakataga, Alaska

Date: Sept. 4, 1899

Time: 00:22 UTC

Magnitude: 8.2

Details of the incident:

During September, the YakutatBay region was shaken by a series of severe earthquakes. The first earthquake was moderately strong at Yakutat but was extremely violent at CapeYakataga, about 160 kilometers west breaking off the tops of trees, generating landslides, and raising the ocean beach about 1 meter. Although no loss of life or property occurred in the region, reported effects include uplift of the coast, landslides, difficulty in standing upright, water waves on the bay, and shaking of houses. Faulting probably occurred at CapeYakataga. The shock was felt at about 30 known locations, the most distant on the lower Yukon River, about 1,100 kilometers from YakutatBay. Strong aftershocks were observed.

Location of earthquake

Location of earthquake

8. Andreanof Islands, Alaska

Date: May 7, 1986

Time: 22:47:12 UTC

Magnitude: 8.0

Details of the incident:

This earthquake caused moderate damage to structures on AdakIsland and slight damage on Atka Island and slight damage to buildings on AdakIsland consisting of cracked masonry and concrete walls, failure of partitions and suspended ceilings, spalling on concrete beams and piers, and differential settlement of house foundations. Soil liquefaction was observed in localized areas of backfilled soil, and sand blows were observed. This earthquake caused a small tsunami that was recorded throughout the Pacific Ocean