Valdez is a picturesque community located on Prince William Sound. The surrounding coastal mountains have been compared to views of the Swiss Alps. On March 27, 1964 an earthquake that measured 9.2 on the Richter Scale struck Alaska. The quake lasted over four minutes and was centered a mere 45 miles from Valdez, destroying homes and ripping streets apart. After the earthquake, the ground was considered too unstable for residents so the town was moved four miles east and rebuilt.
Since its gold rush days, Valdez has evolved into an important shipping center because it is the most northerly year-round, ice-free port in the western hemisphere. Construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was completed in 1977 and Valdez was chosen as the terminus for the 800 mile pipeline out of Prudhoe Bay. During the construction phase of the pipeline, Valdez’s population surged to 10,000. When it was completed and the oil started flowing, the population settled to its current level of about 4,000 year-round residents.