The Alberni Valley Tsunami of 1964
This month marks the 59th anniversary of one of the largest tsunami’s to ever hit British Columbia’s coastline.
The 1964 Tsunami
On March 27th, 1964 the strongest earthquake to ever hit North America occurred in Anchorage, Alaska. It became known as the “Great Alaskan Earthquake” and measured a massive 9.2 in magnitude. The earthquake was caused by an underwater landslide off the coast and initially created a towering 8.2m tsunami. By the time it reached the Alberni Inlet at around midnight there were 2 waves, the first one was 2.44m and the second, one about an hour later at 3.05m. The larger wave caused most of the damage, in total there were 6 waves ranging in size from 1.52m up to 3.05m. The damage was extensive to both residential and industrial areas, and estimated to cost $5,000,000 in total, for both cities (in those days there were two cities, Alberni and Port Alberni). Many homes remained intact but were lifted up by the waves and moved to different locations. The results changed the course of history for the Alberni Valley, and in the aftermath the two cities of Alberni and Port Alberni came together and amalgamated to form Port Alberni in 1966. Thankfully there were no human casualties beyond injury and property damage.
For a more in-depth account of the 1964 Tsunami, be sure to check out “The Great Tsunami of 1964” written by J. Tardiff at the Port Alberni Maritime Heritage Museum website.
Tsunami Warning System
What if another tsunami were to occur today? In 1964, there was little to no warning of the oncoming tsunami. Today, thankfully, Port Alberni has much better chance of alerting it’s residents. On the first Monday of every month at 1PM sirens across the Alberni Valley sound the alarm in the form of a digeridoo, as both a systems test and a reminder of that fateful day. Full details on the warning system as well as what to do in the event of an actual tsunami can be found on the Alberni Valley Clayoquot Regional District website.
Even with a sophisticated warning system, being prepared for any type of emergency is essential. There are many types of emergencies that may be cause for a temporary evacuation whether it be a flood, fire or even another tsunami, having a plan in place, like the one found over at Prepared BC will help ensure you and your household are ready.