Earthquake!

By Bobby Padgett

 

When we got to Kodiak, which was heavily damaged, we were allowed to meet our families on the dock while we were refueling. They were completely helpless and we were unable to do anything about it but say goodbye and tell them to do the best they could.

Alaska 1964

When these events began, I was an RM1 aboard the CGC STORIS on radio watch while we were underway on Alaska Patrol, just off Dutch Harbor. Everything was quiet when suddenly, on 2182 kHz I heard "MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, this is (static didn’t allow me to copy the name of the unit transmitting)." However, it didn’t take long to find out what was happening.

The vessel reported the entire waterfront was ablaze at Valdez and that an earthquake had hit. I immediately responded and attempted to pass the information to CG Radio Kodiak. My wife and two kids were on Kodiak Island, which was another matter of great concern to me. After numerous attempts, I was unable to raise them, and by this time the radio shack was full of officers from the Captain on down.

Radio propagation improved when evening began, enabling us to pick up commercial broadcast radio stations from the West Coast. A Seattle station reported that an earthquake had hit Alaska and the city of Kodiak was completely wiped out. Because I was not able to raise Kodiak Radio, I feared the worst.

It seemed as if an eternity went by when at last I heard a faint call from Kodiak Radio on our CW working frequency. The signal was so weak I had difficulty reading him but managed to get a message off to him and, as luck would have it, my niece’s husband was the radioman on watch. I then did what is considered a no-no: unofficial and unauthorized personal communications. The officers had no idea what I was transmitting nor would they know his reply I learned that while Kodiak was severely damaged, our families were OK. We then got back to official traffic and were ordered by CCGD17 to proceed immediately to Kodiak to take on fuel and head to Anchorage.

Our assignment was to keep Cook Inlet open for shipping since the railway, airport, and the roads were knocked out completely. By sea was the only way to get fuel and supplies to Anchorage.

When we got to Kodiak, which was heavily damaged, we were allowed to meet our families on the dock while we were refueling. They were completely helpless and we were unable to do anything about it but say goodbye and tell them to do the best they could.

Then we headed to Cook Inlet and commenced breaking ice, staying there a little over a week before we were able to return home. When we finally got ashore at Kodiak, it was unbelievable to see the town. A waterfront liquor store had been picked up, moved 1-1/2 blocks inland and deposited inside a furniture store. The liquor store was still intact, by the way.

A fishing trawler had been moved about three blocks and neatly placed in front of City Hall. The quake had such an affect on the island that we had to order a hinged gangway. At high tide the dock would be approximately two feet under water; and at low tide, we almost had to climb straight up to get onboard.

The major damage to Kodiak was caused not by the earthquake but the Tsunami that followed.

Those were scary times, but we all survived the Good Friday earthquake of 1964!

 

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