Geophysics: Why Anchorage Rocked

Whether its builders knew it or not, the construction of Anchorage was always a risk. Set as it is in southern Alaska, it is deep in an earthquake zone. To make matters worse, most of the city was built on a glacial-outwash plain, which rides on thick beds of slippery clay. When earthquake waves raced through Anchorage on Good Friday, they shattered many a brittle, modern concrete building, but their worst effect was to crack the underlying clay and start the whole place sliding toward the sea.

Seismologists are still analyzing the wiggly...

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