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Newspaper Articles From the Crescent City Tsunami of 1964

On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of Alaska. Within only a few hours, and over a thousand miles away in our little town of Crescent City, California, a tsunami in a series of enormous waves began to dismantle the waterfront, beginning around 10 o'clock p.m. The first surge of water caused massive damage, but it was the subsequent waves that killed the people who had gone out to view the destruction. Eleven people died, two of them small children. Buildings and train cars were moved blocks from their original locations, or completely destroyed. One lot gave no indication that, only a few hours before, a gas station had been there. The small town of Crescent City, who's prosperity relied almost completely from commercial fishing and the logging of deciduous trees, sustained over $7 million worth of damage in 1964 dollars, when Citizen's Dock and nearby lumberyards were destroyed.

Local Telephones Silenced,
Radio Alerts Are Hampered
by Helen Williams in The Crescent City American - Dated Saturday, March 28, 1964.

Radio Station KPLY of Crescent City, 1240 on the area's emergency broadcasting system, retained its power during the hectic hours of last night, but it lost its telephone communication. The series of tidal waves which inundated downtown Crescent City flooded telephone cables causing KPLY's phone to be among many to go dead. Virginia Deaver, who with her husband, Mason, own and operate the station, had received calls earlier during the night from the city police and the sheriff's office notifying them of the emergency. About 10:00 p.m., people began calling KPLY from places such as Youngstown, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Los Angeles; San Francisco and Seattle. These people waited to know if Crescent City had been affected by the tidal wave. By the time Virginia received the information that the wave had hit and that there were no lives lost or damage done, the phone was dead so she went to a trailer house to place her answering call. Unable to relay her information directly to KGO in San Francisco, she had to go through ABC in Los Angeles. KPLY received no notice of evacuation for public broadcast and was not aware of the impending disaster until the series of phone calls. If local power had been disrupted, KPLY would have been off the air. Money has already been appropriated to provide the station with emergency power in case of power failure, and the installation has been authorized by the state and federal governments.

However, technicalities have delayed the installation. Mason Deaver expressed the opinion that after this current emergency, it won't be long before the station will have its own emergency power equipment. As the one tidal wave turned out to be a series of surges inflicting heavy damage in low-lying areas, KPLY began to receive the first of its hundreds of calls from people requesting assistance in locating missing persons. Reverend John McMath, whose home is located across the street from KPLY, 1177 Gainard Street, volunteered the use of his phone for messages thus terminating the necessity for Virginia to drive to the sheriff's office for news releases. Later, a portable two-way radio system between the McMath's and KPLY aided in speeding the messages over the airwaves. Throughout the night, the studio was crowded with people waiting for news of missing persons or wishing to assist in some way.

Youngstown, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Los Angeles; San Francisco and Seattle. These people waited to know if Crescent City had been affected by the tidal wave. By the time Virginia received the information that the wave had hit and that there were no lives lost or damage done, the phone was dead so she went to a trailer house to place her answering call. Unable to relay her information directly to KGO in San Francisco, she had to go through ABC in Los Angeles. KPLY received no notice of evacuation for public broadcast and was not aware of the impending disaster until the series of phone calls. If local power had been disrupted, KPLY would have been off the air. Money has already been appropriated to provide the station with emergency power in case of power failure, and the installation has been authorized by the state and federal governments.

"Fortunately," says Virginia, "we were able to aid in locating most of the missing people for whom we had calls. After the second wave, when we got the message to call the national guard into action and to call all doctors and nurses to the hospital, some of these people in our studios assisted in waking up many of the individuals concerned. Most of the called-up-on people found it difficult to believe that there was an emergency." Local ham operators did a good job, according to the Deavers. They got out quite a few reports all over the country, located people and sent messages requested by concerned individuals. At press time, messages were still pouring into KPLY's studio and were being relayed immediately over the air. The McMath's phone, IN 4-XXXX, was still being used to receive calls for the station. Bill Parker, Del Norte County Civilian Defense Director, has been directing most of the activity and gave Virginia most of her bulletins.



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