Sandy Gunvalson Anderson – Chugiak Account

Chugiak is a community approximately 20 miles (12 km) northeast of Anchorage.

I was 12 years old, living in Chugiak, at the time of the Good Friday earthquake. We lived in a 3-room log cabin about a quarter of a mile off Birchwood Loop North. My older brother was on his 2-week encampment with the National Guard. My mother and father were both home, as was I at the time of the earthquake. It was a very frightening experience and the longest 4 minutes I’ve ever experienced. I remember my mother grabbing me and we stood in the doorway of the cabin. I think my dad was ready to catch the TV. His one-ton truck bounced all over the yard, but interestingly enough, our wood pile stayed pretty much intact. The entire pile appeared to be rocking together, as if it were placed in a giant rocking chair. Damage to our house wasn’t great, however, we did lose our well shortly afterwards and a support beam under the cabin cracked.

The medicine cabinet emptied itself, and furniture shifted. Mother’s plants on the window sill all fell and water sloshed out of the pan we kept on the wood stove, so we had a lot of mud on the floor. The earthquake was even completely over yet, when our neighbors across the street and their children came over to our house. They, like us, were frightened. We apparently had only electric radios which did us no good without electricity, so my father ran his truck and wired a speaker from the truck radio into the house. We went to bed that night with our clothes and boots on, so we could leave quickly in case we had to evacuate. As instructed on the radio, we also packed a bag with groceries for evacuation, mostly canned items, and discovered to our amusement much later, that we had not included a can opener. We eventually heard that the National Guardsmen were okay – that was great relief, although they were put on extended duty. My brother had to tromp through damaged homes in Turnagain By The Sea looking for bodies.

Nearly 40 years later (and in another state) I had an “earthquake flashback”. I was in a pharmacy which had antique pharmaceutical bottles on display. There was a demolition and construction project underway across the street. Some heavy equipment was rumbling and all those display bottles were vibrating and clinking. It felt and sounded like an earthquake. I had to leave.