Posts Tagged ‘1965 Puget Sound earthquake’

A while ago I did a post on this blog about the April 29, 1965 earthquake in Puget Sound.

I recently bought the front page of the Seattle Times from that April 29 afternoon, and here is a little bit more of the paper’s coverage.

One woman, Mrs. John M. Kaiser, said she crawled under her bed with her two young daughters and wondered “Oh boy, is this going to be like Alaska? Then [after the quake] my mother-in-law called, and she told me I did it wrong. I should have gotten under a door jamb.”

The four fatalities initially reported by the Times included two heart attacks suffered by women in their mid-50s, a man at 502 S. King Street buried by falling debris, and another man killed by falling debris, at the Fisher Flouring Mills on Harbor Island.

The Times added: “Union Station in Seattle was evacuated after suffering extensive damage. The third floor of the building was sagging and there were cracked walls and ceilings. The Union Station at Tacoma was also ordered evacuated because of extensive damage.”

“The Bonneville Power Administration reported three major [transmission] lines went out of operation.” They were two lines “about 34 miles east of Everett” and a line running from Grand Coulee Dam to Olympia.

And: “Sidewalks adjacent to the old Ballard City Hall, Ballard Avenue Northwest and 22nd Avenue Northwest, were barricaded because of bricks which came tumbling down from the old structure.”

“Navy officials closed the Magnolia Bridge to traffic because of damage to the underside of the structure which resulted in substantial amount of material falling on cars parked below.”

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was closed “after the quake sheared bolts and covered the roadway with glass from lightning fixtures. . . Cracks yawned in the highway between Manchester and Port Orchard. Puyallup reported gas mains broken.”

Power lines went down in Longview and Kelso. In Olympia, “the former Capitol, which bore the brunt of the 1949 tremor, took another severe beating today. . . On the eighth-floor balcony, high in the Capitol rotunda, columns were sheared at the base. . . . There were cracks in the walls and broken plaster covered the floors. Exterior stone columns were shifted as much as 1 1/2 inches, and cracks of up to 1 1/2 inches wide opened up in the walls. . . . There was no damage to the cupola.”

In Olympia’s Legislative Building, “there was a crack of about three feet long on the inside of the inner dome of the rotunda. The five-ton chandelier was still swinging from its 110-foot chain, like a pendulum on a clock, in a one-foot orbit, a half hour after the quake. . . . In the Temple of Justice, cracks developed in the walls of the law library.”

These notes on damage and fatalities aren’t just of historical and anecdotal interest: they give an indication of what areas of Puget Sound will be hit hardest by the next big quake.

Here are a few pictures from the Times. The top of the front page:
photo (4)

And three inside pictures: the first, from Seattle:
photo (2)
Sicks’ brewery:
photo (3)
And an apartment building:
For some context, on another page of the Times was this headline: “231 Reds Slain in 3 Assaults on Viet-Cong”

And, the Associated Press was applying to become the first news entity to send data to a communications satellite, to improve its news distribution operations.


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A few days ago I responded to Knute’s Crosscut post about Puget Sound’s numerous natural hazards by letting him know about this project. He responded by sharing a couple quake tales of his and his father’s, starting with the Valentine’s Day 1946 earthquake:

My father had a great story about that. He was scrubbing for surgery at Virginia Mason; when the quake hit, the doctor next to him jumped up and sat in the sink! After the quake, my dad asked him why he took cover that way. The other doctor replied that he’d seen major quake devastation in Manila, and the building had collapsed, but their plumbing was still standing intact, with sinks, bathtubs and toilets hanging up in the air from the pipes. He said he promised himself that if he was ever in a major quake, he’d get into the nearest bathtub so he wouldn’t go down with the building.

And I well remember the ’65 quake. I was at before-school orchestra practice at John Muir elementary. Our teacher, Mr. Bloom (who looked just like Richard Nixon) continued to tune a violin throughout the quake telling us all to be calm. I put my French horn over my head for protection as cracks appeared in the ceiling of the school lunchroom overhead.

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The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network summarized this mid-morning quake as “an eerie, 6.5-magnitude revisitation of the 1949 quake, centered again near Olympia, [which] caused the deaths of four elderly women who suffered heart attacks and three other persons hit by falling debris.”

Here are a few accounts published in the Seattle Times of April 29. First Space Needle Restaurant manager Basil Miaullis: “First we felt a bounce and than an oscillation–a whipping around. Everybody stayed put. There was no panic. No one ran for the elevators. And when it was all over, everybody finished breakfast just about as if it never had happened.

“John Graham, the architect whose firm designed the Space Needle, was here. He wanted to know how much the Needle swayed. It swayed a little more than it did during the big Columbus Day windstorm in October, 1962, during the World’s Fair. It was just like riding the top of a flagpole.

“The Space Needle has such a low center of gravity that it did not affect us as much as people might think. All we lost was a couple of bottles of booze. This place is built to take it.”

Mrs. Patrick Murphy, comparing the quake to the one in 1949: “This one terrified me, too. I couldn’t move. I just stood there, watching the telephone wires wiggle and my lamp fall off the television set, and then little cracks opened in the breakfast nook wall.”

Mrs. Warren Reynolds: “My son, Michael, 9, was in the bathroom, and he was too scared to come out. My daughter, Denise, 7, let me hold her on the bed. Bottles kept falling on the dresser, the mirror fell, pictures tipped over and the birdcase swung so violently it chipped the wall. That crazy bird is still chirping.”

After the Loma Prieta quake, Gordon Vickery, Seattle fire chief for this quake, remembered the collapse of a water tank at Fisher Flouring Mills on Harbor Island. He said of the tanks businesses around town had: ”Many of them shook off in the ’49 quake. The rest of them went in ’65. They were big wooden tanks on steel frames and the water sloshed them off. Harbor Island was all built on landfill. Those buildings are constructed on a bowl of Jell-O.”

Also, in March 2001, Tim Menees, an editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, responded to the Nisqually quake by telling his story of living through this quake. He wrote:

In 1965, I was roused out of my slumber by the third worst [earthquake to hit Seattle]. . . .

My roommates and I, University of Washington juniors, living in an old Tudor-style apartment building, the main floor of which had been a college hangout when Mom had been a bobbysoxer freshman. I had a late morning class and we had been up late studying — or more likely out drinking beer. I thought Mike was shaking me until I looked over and he was sitting up in his bed staring back at me. Our building was creaking and a hanging sign outside our second-floor window was flapping back and forth.

When nature decides to get in our face, it seems to take its sweet time. In fact, Seattle’s latest assault lasted only half a minute. But when you’re standing in your underwear in an old doorway as your apartment building undulates around you and plates are crashing to the floor, you are not watching the clock’s second hand. You are focused on one thought: “Please, God, make this stop.”

On the other hand, some people clearly took this quake in stride. Here’s an ad that appeared just after it happened:

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