Daily Archives: 4 November 2012

Denali Fault Quake

Ten years ago yesterday, the 7.9 magnitude Denali Fault Quake hit Interior Alaska. It remains the largest earthquake I have experienced. I was stopped at a light on University Avenue in my ’66 Chevy pickup, when the truck suddenly started to lurch & sway. It was actually hard to stay on the brakes, so I popped the transmission into neutral. Two guys in a car next to me rolled down a window and asked me, “What the hell is going on?” All I said was, “Earthquake.” The passenger in the car then smacked his buddy on the head and said, “I told you it was an earthquake!”

The shaking went on for a surprisingly long time. I remember an elderly couple had been walking down the sidewalk, the woman couldn’t keep her balance and she dropped to the concrete. Her husband stayed upright only by holding onto a street sign. When he offered her his hand to help her up, she only shook her head. It was probably a good idea to wait until the Earth stopped shaking.

A friend of mine was walking his dogs across the frozen tundra when it hit. He watched a “wave” move across the ice on the frozen pond in front of him. He was forced to hold onto a spruce tree to keep from falling to the ground.

In October of 2002, we had experienced a foreshock, in the form of a 6.7 quake. At the time, the experts were on the radio telling us that the Denali Fault could produce an 8.0. but doubted that it could produce anything larger. I couldn’t help but wonder how the hell they could conclude that, but a month later we found ourselves on the 8.0 doorstep. It was the largest quake ever recorded in Interior Alaska, and the largest in the interior of the United States in over 150 years.

Both the Parks & Richardson Hwys suffered damage, and the Tok Cutoff suffered a 23 foot offset. The Alaska Pipeline did exactly what it was suppose to do where it crosses the fault: It slid laterally on the beams it sits on and no oil was spilled. A peak out at Black Rapids showed the most dramatic change with a rather large landslide.

In Seattle, the Supersonics were in pregame warmups, when the main scoreboard started to sway, due to our trembler.

3 November 2002