History of Earthquakes in North America

In San Francisco, on Market Street near the Ferry building, the ground beneath the street collapsed. This photo was taken on April 20, 1906, two days after the quake. (U.S. Geological Survey)

A scene of near-total destruction in downtown San Francisco on May 7, 1906. The outer framework of the California Hotel (center) survived the quake, while all around it was rubble and ruin. (U.S. Geological Survey)

A scene from the Alaska earthquake of March 27, 1964. Fourth Avenue in Anchorage collapsed when the ground subsided eleven feet (3.3 m) vertically and lurched fourteen feet (4.3 m) horizontally at the same time. (U.S. Geological Survey)

A man examines a ten-ply tire through which a plank of wood has been driven by a wave—an indication of the violent force of the tsunami surge that struck Whittier, Alaska, on March 27, 1964. (U.S. Geological Survey)

This photograph, taken in Port Alberni, British Columbia, on March 28, 1964, shows the aftermath of the Alaska earthquake and tsunami. Two of six waves that traveled more than 1,800 miles (3,000 km) from the Gulf of Alaska roared up the Alberni Inlet, flipping cars, smashing fifty-eight homes, and damaging 375 others. (Alberni Valley Museum Photograph Collection, PN13805/Charles Tebby)

The Alaska tsunami of 1964 also hit Crescent City, California, where more than a dozen people died when they ventured back into the danger zone after the first wave, thinking the worst was over. Four of the six huge waves generated in Alaska struck the California coast with deadly effect. (Del Norte County Historical Society)

An aerial view of the eruption of Mount St. Helens, Washington, near the Oregon border, on May 18, 1980. This photo shows physical evidence of a tectonic plate being shoved beneath North America along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Earthquake energy traveled long distance from the West Coast to Mexico City on September 19, 1985, with devastating effects on high-rise buildings, which vibrated in harmonic resonance with the low-frequency shockwaves. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Paleoseismologist Brian Atwater discovered this ghost forest on the Copalis River in Washington State in March 1986. The trees and other freshwater plants were killed by salt water when coastal lowlands dropped below high-tide level, probably during Cascadia’s last megathrust earthquake on January 26, 1700. (U.S. Geological Survey/Brian Atwater)

The Loma Prieta (or World Series) earthquake of October 17, 1989, caused deadly destruction in the San Francisco Bay Area. This photograph shows the support columns that failed, causing the collapse of the Cypress Viaduct (Interstate 880) in Oakland. (U.S. Geological Survey)

This photograph from March 2007 shows signs of a new public awareness of tsunami dangers on West Coast beaches. Residents of Seaside, Oregon, have learned the tsunami evacuation route and know they will have as little as fifteen minutes to leave the downtown core once a large quake on the nearby Cascadia Subduction Zone has begun. (Doug Trent)

Hauling a turbidite core sample aboard the research ship Roger Revelle off the coast of Sumatra in May 2007. Offshore landslides triggered by massive earthquakes have left a series of “tectonic fingerprints” in the deep-sea mud. (Chris Aikenhead)

A tsunami simulation at Oregon State University in August 2007. Using a scale model of the resort
community of Seaside, the simulation shows how a thirty-foot (10 m) tsunami expected from a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake would sweep across the community, inundating nearly all
the downtown business district and many residential areas. (Omni Film Productions Ltd.)

In August 2007 cinematographer Ian Kerr (left) prepares to record a tsunami simulation with a highspeed camera (protected by a plastic bag). The snorkel lens will provide a graphic, street-level view as the wave rips across this scale model of Seaside, Oregon. (Omni Film Productions Ltd./Scott Spiker)

A tsunami simulation in Seaside, Oregon, in August 2007. The wooden blocks represent residential dwellings, single-story commercial buildings, and multi-story condominiums or hotels. (Omni Film Productions Ltd./ Scott Spiker)

Cascadia’s wave makes landfall on the west coast of Vancouver Island in a computer-generated tsunami simulation created in 2008 for the documentary Shockwave. The first of several tsunami waves can be expected to hit areas from British Columbia to California fifteen to twenty minutes after the earthquake. (Omni Film Productions Ltd./Artifex Studios)

A computer-generated illustration from the documentary Shockwave (2008) shows the leading edge of a tsunami generated by a megathrust earthquake along Cascadia’s fault. The tsunami arrives in Ucluelet harbor on the west coast of Vancouver Island fifteen to twenty minutes after the shaking stops. (Omni Film Productions Ltd./Artifex Studios)