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Sitkans remember Alaska’s 1964 earthquake

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s Good Friday Earthquake. The largest impact was felt at the epicenter, but 600 miles away in Sitka it still made a mark. Here are three short stories from people who were living in Sitka in 1964.


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Sitka resident Larry Calvin was working at the pulp mill during the 1964 earthquake. (KCAW photo/Emily Forman)

Sitka resident Larry Calvin was working at the pulp mill during the 1964 earthquake. (KCAW photo/Emily Forman)

When the Alaska Pulp Corporation pulp mill was evacuated during the earthquake, Larry Calvin was out on the floating logs. They had forgotten about him. Had he not moved onto a raft, he would have been squashed between the logs as a tsunami wave rolled in.

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Willis Osbakken was a geologist at the the US Coast Geodetic Observatory in Sitka during the 1964 earthquake. (KCAW photo/Emily Forman)

Willis Osbakken was a geologist at the the US Coast Geodetic Observatory in Sitka during the 1964 earthquake. (KCAW photo/Emily Forman)

While the pulp mill failed to warn Calvin, they managed to spread the word to the US Coast and Geodetic observatory – the group responsible for recording magnetic and seismic activity. Willis Osbakken was a geologist with the observatory in Sitka, and has the story of why the experts were late to the game.


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Kent and Marilyn Hanson lived on Japonski Island, before the the bridge. The evening of the earthquake they decided to visit with friends in town. They took a skiff over to the Sitka side. Immediately after the earthquake the current was too strong to go back. They spent the night separated from their kids.

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