March 28, 1964 Earthquake
Prince William Sound, Alaska
A magnitude 8.4 earthquake occured at 9:36 p.m. Arkansas time on March 27 , 1964, near Prince William Sound, Alaska, and was one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded on the North American Continent. The shock wave took only seven minutes and forty seconds to travel to Arkansas. While the effects of the earthquake in Alaska are well documented, few know of the effects of the earthquake within Arkansas!
In addition to the earthquake registering at seismograph stations in Little Rock and Fayetteville, the most remarkable effect of the earthquake was its impact on Arkansas lakes, streams, and wells.
The water level at Lake Ouachita near Hot Springs rose 1.45 feet on Friday, March 27th and took over 90 minutes to return to normal. Table Rock Lake on the Arkansas - Missourri border was observed to have risen; however, no change was recorded on the day-to-day recordings. It was assumed by officials that Table Rock Lake quickly returned to normal levels.
The USGS which then monitored a network of 50 Arkansas wells to determine water levels reported that wells were also effected. Well waters were muddied and levels fluctuated up and down for three hours and water levels varied as much as 3.3 feet. Fluctuations were greatest in deep wells, having a depth of 150 feet or more.
Streams in Northern Arkansas were also muddied and stream flow rates also fluctuated. The largest observed stream flow fluctuation occured on the Saint Francis River, near Marked Tree, which recorded a 0.26 foot fluctuation. The first recorded fluctuation of the Saint Francis River occured at 10:15 p.m., about 45 minutes after the earthquake struck. Additionally, three springs that fed the Harrison Water Company turned very muddy and beautiful Blue Springs, 7 miles east of Eureka Springs, was muddy on Saturday, but clear on Sunday.
An article and illustration describing the changes in water levels appeared in the Sunday, April 12, 1964 edition of the Arkansas Gazette newspaper.
Previously recorded shock waves which have effected Arkansas lakes and wells include the July 10, 1958 Alaskan earthquake which caused six-inch fluctuations and the October 30, 1961 detonation of a 58 megaton nuclear weapon in the USSR which caused fluctuations of less than one-inch.
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Arkansas Earthquake Center
College of Science and Engineering Technology
2801 South University
Little Rock AR 72204
Last Updated: October 22, 1998
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