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What You Need to Know About Natural Disasters in Alaska

Cleveland Volcano Alaska

Not to make you nervous or anything, but Alaska is prone to a few severe natural disasters which can cause great damage and loss of life.

We decided to write about them in to order to raise your awareness, keep you calm and help you prepare in case of an occurrence. Remember — acting rationally during a crisis is more important than the crisis itself.

Earthquakes & Tsunamis

Alaska 1964 Earthquake Fourth Avenue Anchorage

Alaska 1964 Earthquake: Fourth Avenue Anchorage

Alaska sits along a basin of the Pacific Ocean where a large number of tectonic shifts and eruptions occur. These can happen at any time, resulting in earthquakes. At 5:36 pm on March 27, 1964, the largest earthquake ever recorded in North America, and one of the largest in history, ravaged coastal Alaska for 4 minutes and 38 seconds.

Quakes cause underwater landslides which displace vast amounts of water out to sea. The water returns quickly in the form of giant waves called tsunamis, which can devastate coastlines and its inhabitants.

The 1964 earthquake caused tsunamis in Oregon, Washington, California, Canada and reaching as far as Hawaii and Japan.

Volcanoes

1990 eruption of Mt. Redoubt, Alaska

1990 eruption of Mt. Redoubt, Alaska

Volcanoes can be equally unpredictable, and Alaska has over 130 active ones. Sometimes they start smoking and sometimes they just blow their top — Spurr, Redoubt, Iliamna, and Augustine are some of the most memorable ones in recent Alaska history.

Unlike Hawaii’s lava flowing-volcanoes, Alaska’s volcanoes spew ash.

In December of 1989, a Boeing 747 carrying 231 passengers near Anchorage flew through an ash cloud from Redoubt Volcano and lost power in all four jet engines. The plane lost about 10,000 feet of elevation before the pilots were able to restart the engines…whew!

This recent Alaska fire map puts things into humbling perspective.

A recent Alaska fire map offers perspective

Forest Fires

Unlike earthquakes and volcanoes, forest fires are often caused by people who don’t realize what they’ve done until it’s too late.

Combine human error with Alaska’s arid summers and combustible vegetation and you have huge swath of fire danger to contend with.

Here’s the latest fire count from Alaska’s Division of Forestry:

That’s an unusually large number of fires brought on by a record-hot month of May (which melted the snow cover earlier than normal). The fires are putting a strain on the state’s firefighting resources and personnel.

Take a moment to learn about fire safety in Alaska.

Everything Else

Fortunately, hurricanes and floods don’t appear here very often. Neither do heat waves. As far as blizzards — keep in mind there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

Ask us Alaskans what we think of the cold and here’s what we’ll tell you:

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Image credits: Wikipedia 1 2, AK Division of Forestry, Zazzle, NASA Marshall SFC Flickr, NASA Goddard SFC