When you think of the most destructive natural disasters in recent memory, you probably think of the earthquake in Fukushima, Japan, back in 2011. While it's true that this was a devastating earthquake, it pales in comparison to the power and destruction wrought by a 1964 earthquake in Alaska. It was the most powerful seismic event ever recorded in North America, and the havoc it wreaked on the state was so awful.
At approximately 5:36 p.m. Alaska Standard Time, a fault line between the Pacific and North American plates ruptured. The result of that rupture was a 9.2 magnitude, 9.2 megathrust earthquake.
The epicenter of the quake was about 78 miles east of the city of Anchorage and 40 miles west of Valdez. The quake produced one large tsunami and several smaller tsunami waves, which destroyed harbors and beaches along the coast.
While only 15 people are believed to have died as a direct result of the earthquake on land, the subsequent tsunamis both in Alaska as well as down the coast into the mainland killed 124.
Anchorage suffered awful damage. In addition to collapsed homes, residents in this town also dealt with landslides that wiped out entire neighborhoods.
The town of Portage, right near Anchorage, was entirely destroyed by the earthquake. The ground sank six feet following the quake, putting almost everything below sea level.
Today, all that's left of Portage is a ghostly forest of dead trees (pictured below) that were killed by saltwater flooding after the fact.
Earthquakes are the most terrifying things ever. At least with other natural disasters, you can get out with some warning or seek shelter if you're trapped. With an earthquake, there is nowhere to hide.