The deadliest tsunami in the U.S. reached a vertical height of 55 feet inland and killed 173 people

Anita Durairaj

Since 1737, there have been a total of 73 tsunamis (or tidal waves) in the United States. A tsunami is a tidal wave that is caused by an underwater earthquake, landslide, or volcanic eruption.

Tsunami waves can reach a maximum height of 100 feet near coastal areas and can also cause catastrophic destruction.

The most destructive tsunami in the U.S. occurred on April 1, 1946. The tsunami was a result of an earthquake on Unimak Island, Alaska. The earthquake came to be known as the 1946 Aleutian Islands earthquake.

During the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, the seafloor became elevated triggering a tsunami in the Pacific with a maximal wave height of 130 feet.

The tsunami caused five deaths on Unimak Island in Alaska and then the waves traveled across the ocean at 500 miles an hour to Hawaii. The waves reached a runup height of 35 to 55 feet as they reached Kauai and Hilo in Hawaii.

The tsunami reached Hawaii on April 1, 1946, which was also April Fool's Day. Unfortunately, some residents thought the warning of an approaching tsunami was an April Fool's joke and did not immediately evacuate to shelter.

There was significant damage and loss of life in Kauai, Hilo, and Maui in Hawaii. The effects of the tsunami were also felt in Washington, Oregon, and California.

Altogether, the tsunami claimed 173 lives and caused $26 million in damages. After the 1946 earthquake and tsunami, a Tsunami Warning System was established.

Tsunamis continue to impact the United States but none so far have been as deadly as the 1946 April Fool's Day Tsunami.

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Trained with a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Cincinnati, I write unique and interesting articles focused on science, history, and current events.


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