Westport resident remembers 1964 Alaska quake and tsunami




Posted on March 11, 2011 at 4:56 PM

WESTPORT, Wash. – One Washington coastal resident who came to watch the tsunami generated by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan Friday said it brought back memories of another quake nearly five decades ago.

Jerry Tilley Sr. rode out the tsunami that followed the 1964 Alaska quake on a shrimping boat.

"You could hear it tearing the town apart," Tilley Sr. said. "I came up out of the engine room thinking a wheel was coming off the engine or something. I got up underneath the dock, and the dock was rolling in waves."

He says he watched the water rise and fall. He managed to make it through, only to find his home gone.

"I ended up with just the clothes on my back," he said.

As he thinks back on 1964 and looks out onto the ocean now, it's with sympathy for the many suffering after the Japan quake.

"I understand what they are going through," he said. "It is pretty devastating."

Tilley and his son were among those who pulled into a parking lot next to Westport's beach just after dawn Friday to see the waves generated by the Japan quake.

"I haven’t seen anything, nothing, zero," Jerry Tilley Jr. said

"We just came to see the wave," Ashley Beason said. "I wanted to see if it was going to come on land because all my friends were freaking out about it."

Beason drove an hour to reach the vantage point while Jon Branshaw traveled less than a mile.

"This is a small one. If we were going to have a big one, I’d be a long ways from here, trust me," Branshaw said.

Residents did not need to pack up and leave because the tsunami advisory for this part of Grays Harbor County called for just a one-foot wave to reach Westport.