On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, the largest earthquake ever to hit North America struck Alaska. It was the second largest earthquake ever recorded, second only to Chile in 1960, which experienced a quake of 9.5 Moment Magnitude (Mw). The epicenter of this awesome quake was a mere 45 miles west of Valdez and 14 miles under the earth's crust. Initial shocks lasting over five minutes affected nearly all of the coastal communities of Alaska.
The magnitude of this quake measured 8.4 - 8.6 on the Richter Scale and was reported as a 9.2 Moment Magnitude (Mw). The massive shock waves ripped streets apart, damaged homes and destroyed buildings in town. Two docks in town were completely destroyed. $15 million dollars in damage was reported.
The earthquake triggered a huge submarine slide that caused millions of cubic yards of earth to slide into the Valdez Bay. Large seiche waves caused additional damage. Thirty-one Valdezeans (mostly children) lost their lives during the earthquake.
Due to the unstable condition of the town, many residents were forced to live in roadhouses for a period of a couple of weeks. Help from Fairbanks arrived almost immediately. This aid came in the form of food, clothing, and entertainment. Gradually people whose homes had not been damaged were allowed to return to their property.
The ground under Valdez was determined to be unstable and it was decided to move the location of Valdez to a new town site. The Army Corps of Engineers chose the delta of Mineral Creek after much research. The ground was more stable — the base being dense, medium-sized cobblestone gravel for some 100 feet down.
It took from two to four years for the new Valdez to become home for Valdez residents. Approximately 62 buildings were moved from the old Valdez to the new town site. Homeowners paid a fee of $400 for lots because the Corps of Engineers, along with Urban Renewal funds, replaced public facilities.
Since that tragic day in 1964, Valdez has grown and flourished. For its efforts in rebuilding the new Valdez in an amazingly short time, Valdez was voted an All America City in 1965. Valdez was once again named an All America City in 1982 for its diversified economic growth, which has stabilized today encompassing the oil industry, fishing, and tourism.
Some say the same earthquake devastation can never happen in Valdez again because of its new location. But every tremor brings the question of its possibility to the residents of Valdez.