Primary tabs

Much of the damage and most of the lives lost were due to the effects of water waves. There were two kinds: the open-ocean sea wave (tectonic tsunami), generated by large-scale motion of the sea floor; and the local wave, generated by underwater landslides in bays of fiords.

The locally induced tsunami waves claimed at least 82 lives. With maximum heights reported for these waves at 70 meters in Valdez Arm. Communities such as Whittier, Seward and Valdez were struck by waves before shaking had even finished.

The 1964 Alaska tsunami was the second largest ever recorded, again following only the one caused by the 1960 Chile earthquake (4 meters at Sitka). Of the 119 deaths attributable to the effects of the ocean, about one-third were due to the open-ocean tsunami: 4 at Newport Beach, Oregon; 12 at Crescent City, California; and about 21 in Alaska.

Tsunami Damage in Kodiak. NOAA photo.

Seiches, a sort of sloshing of water back and forth in a small body of water like a boat harbor or swimming pool, were observed as far away as Louisiana where a number of fishing boats were sunk. Oscillations in the height of water in wells were reported from as far away as South Africa.

1964 Tsunami Animations

The 1964 tsunami propagation in the Pacific Ocean

Numerical simulation of tsunamis in Resurrection Bay from multiple underwater slides

Numerical simulation of a local tsunami resulting from an underwater slide in Seward

These animations as well as a playlist of tsunami related animations can be found on our YouTube channel.

Last Modified: November 20, 2020