What Was the Most Violent Earthquake in American History?

The United States is no stranger to earthquakes, but some have been more destructive and deadly than others. The most violent earthquake in American history occurred in 1964 in Alaska and is known as the Great Alaskan Earthquake. This massive earthquake was a magnitude 9.2 on the Richter scale, making it one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded.

The Great Alaskan Earthquake

The Great Alaskan Earthquake struck on March 27, 1964, at 5:36 pm local time. The epicenter of the earthquake was located approximately 75 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska. The quake lasted for over four minutes and was followed by a series of aftershocks that continued for weeks.


The Great Alaskan Earthquake had a devastating impact on the region. Entire towns were destroyed, and many people lost their lives. The earthquake triggered landslides and tsunamis that caused widespread damage along the coastlines of Alaska, Canada, and the United States.

Deaths and Injuries

The Great Alaskan Earthquake resulted in 139 deaths and over 1,000 injuries. Most of the fatalities were caused by tsunamis that hit coastal communities in Alaska and other states along the Pacific Coast.


The tsunamis triggered by the earthquake were particularly destructive. Waves as high as 50 feet hit some coastal areas, causing widespread damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure.

  • The town of Valdez was completely destroyed by a tsunami.
  • The port city of Seward suffered extensive damage.
  • In Crescent City, California, eleven people were killed when a tsunami hit.


The Great Alaskan Earthquake also triggered numerous landslides that caused additional damage and casualties. The most significant landslide occurred in the Turnagain Heights neighborhood of Anchorage, where a massive slab of earth and rock slid downhill, destroying homes and killing several people.


The Great Alaskan Earthquake was a tragic event that had a profound impact on the people and communities of Alaska and beyond. It serves as a reminder of the awesome power of nature and the importance of being prepared for earthquakes and other natural disasters.