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News / Northwest

A 1965 6.5 earthquake is a reminder Seattle is not immune to the rumbles

By Vonnai Phair, The Seattle Times
Published: May 4, 2024, 5:51am

SEATTLE — Nearly 60 years ago, on the morning of April 29, 1965, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake rattled the Puget Sound region.

Three people died from falling debris, and four others died from heart failure attributed to the earthquake.

Centered in Des Moines, it remains the fourth-strongest quake to hit the region since 1850, according to History Link. The last major ground shakeup happened in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake with a 6.8 magnitude.

Here’s how the 1965 quake was felt around the Seattle area, according to History Link:

Seconds before the quake started at 8:29 a.m., people across King County heard loud noises coming from the earth.

Then, the ground shook for about 45 seconds, toppling poorly built structures and damaging even well-built buildings. Trees and bushes swayed outside, and inside homes, knickknacks crashed to the floor.

In Seattle, where the quake caused the most damage, two 2,000-gallon Rainier Brewing Company tanks fell off their foundation, spilling beer onto the floor.

A landslide at Carkeek Park opened an underground stream that eroded away land and broke a water main.

Meanwhile, in the penthouse of the 38-story Smith Tower, the quake threw a sleeping woman out of her bed.

Along Alki Beach, “virtually every chimney was down.”

The ground even opened up, spurting sand out along a zigzagging 100-foot-long stretch of a University of Washington football field.

The quake damaged virtually every building, pier and facility on Harbor Island and along the Seattle waterfront.

Even the former two-story Seattle Times Building on Fairview Avenue shook to the point that plaster dust forced the teletype printers to stop working.

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Elsewhere in King County, Renton’s Boeing Aircraft Plant sustained damage to its floors and ceilings.

In Pacific, people felt the quake for more than two minutes, longer than anywhere else in King County.

Most of the liquor bottles at a North Bend liquor store fell and broke, and in Snoqualmie Falls, mail fell out of town post office boxes.

The quake was felt across more than a 190,000-square-mile area, including all of Washington, northwest Oregon, the southwest corner of Canada and the north Idaho panhandle.