- Lisbon earthquake, 1755 - All Saint's Day. According to Rob Zaretsky, professor of French history at the University of Houston, over 100,000 people died. The earthquake also pounded Europe's political and cultural landscapes. The brightest light of the Enlightenment, Voltaire, used the earthquake in his wonderful satire, Candide. From a ship in Lisbon harbor, Candide watched helplessly as the good drowned and the wicked survived.
- Alaskan earthquake, 1964 - Good Friday. This is the second biggest earthquake ever recorded, surpassed only by the 1960 Chile quake. According to the Alaska Earthquake Information Center, the area of significant damage covered about 130,000 square kilometers. It was felt over 1,300,000 square kilometers (all of Alaska, parts of Canada, and south to Washington). The four minute duration of shaking triggered many landslides and avalanches. Major structural damage occurred in many of the cities in Alaska. The damage totaled $300-400 million dollars. You betcha.
- Sumatra-Andaman earthquake, 2005 - day after Christmas (that's kind of a holiday, isn't it?). The IRIS special report states that approximately 1200 kilometers of the India-Burma plate boundary slipped, with an average displacement on the fault plane of about 15 meters. The resulting tsunami claimed 250,000 lives.
- Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1984 - Easter Sunday. This is actually the only earthquake I have ever experienced. It was studied by our own group's Charlie Scharnberger (see booklet on Earthquake Hazard in Pennsylvania) and John Armbruster. Actually, this is my favorite kind of earthquake - sensible, exciting, and useful for scientific research, yet it only caused a little bit of cracked plaster.
Hoping your solstice and upcoming holidays are disaster-free.