Skip to comments.CBS2 Takes 20th Anniversary Look Back On The Devastating Northridge Quake
Posted on 01/12/2014 10:34:55 AM PST by BenLurkin
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) If you were living in Southern California 20 years ago this week, you probably dont need the reminder.
You might not want the reminder either. It was, and remains, one of the worst days in Southern California history.
Twenty years ago, specifically in the early morning hours of January 17, 1994, Southern California was rocked by the devastating and deadly Northridge quake.
The quake lasted only about 20 seconds, but the 6.7 quake reverberated long after. The toll? Nearly 60 dead, more than 7,000 injured and an estimated damage total estimated at upwards of $20 billion. The quake was felt as far as Las Vegas, Nevada. Officials said more than 20,000 people were left homeless. An estimated 40,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, some as far as 85 miles away from the epicenter.
In a special Eye On Our Community (CBS2 at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, January 12), anchors Pat Harvey and Paul Magers look back at that horrific day though the eyes of the people who lived it and witnessed it. They will talk to survivors, people who lost loved ones and many who barely escaped with their lives.
Harvey talks to former Mayor Richard Riordan who was in office a little more than six months when the quake struck. His take-charge attitude was largely credited with getting the city back on its feet quickly.
Magers talks to a special survivor Mike Kubeisy, a photographer who ended up rescuing five people at the Northridge Meadows Apartments, including a woman he would go on to marry later in 1994. (This year, Mike and Patricia Silden will celebrate 20 years of marriage.)
Dr. Lucy Jones, who has been studying earthquakes for more than three decades and a seismologist with the US Geological Survey, also leaves viewers with a cautionary note.
The thing we need to understand, Dr. Jones says, is that Northridge was really not a big earthquake. Northridge is a moderate to large earthquake. We have the potential for much larger and much more damaging quake.
To that end, the special broadcast will also ask an important question: Are we ready for the big one?
This will only make sense to other native Angelenos, but I was in Louisiana on the day of the Northridge quake, and was pissed that I missed it.
Maybe if they did more fracking there, it would create smaller earthquakes to relieve the pressure, so that “The Big One” won’t be quite so big.
3 miles from the epicenter.
What people don’t realize is the SOUND!
It was like being inside a jackhammer.
Unforgettable and a tiny % why I moved (I had been through Sylmar, Malibu, Whittier Narrows and that weird San Bedu event).
A quake like Northridge is a life changer.
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Seeing the destruction in SF valley was a real shocker, just did not seem that bad to us.
I was in Van Nuys. Felt like a giant picked up the building I was in and violently shook it. Afterwards, the apartment looked like a hurricane had been through it. I thought for sure this was “the big one.” And...it wasn’t!!!
Windman, I hear you. I was living in Switzerland at the time, and was watching cnn international. Before the sun came up there was NO INFO other than that there was a bad quake with epicenter near where every loved one of mine lived. They were showing aerial DARKNESS of the SF Valley. The best way to describe that feeling I had is like being an astronaut on the moon and seeing the planet earth just blow up. I felt I couldn’t breathe until they finally got a call to work. I was calling every second but phones were not working.
I moved back to the valley four months after the earthquake, from Europe. Everywhere I went, 90% of all conversations were about the earthquake! all the time. Every child was still in the parents’ bed. It was deeply within everyone’s core who had gone through it. Damage was everywhere. And when we rented a little house in the valley the chimney was destroyed.
I was in an elevator in Long Beach when a 5.1 aftershock occurred at 5p.m......took the stairs for weeks afterwards.
Still sometimes think about those poor folks on the Nimitz freeway.
I had a similar experience with the Northridge quake. Nearly half of my family still lived in SoCal, so we were on the phones for hours trying to get through to them.
In the ‘89 Loma Prieta quake, I was in England. Same thing, as the other half of the family lives in NorCal!
>>I was in Van Nuys. Felt like a giant picked up the building I was in and violently shook it. Afterwards, the apartment looked like a hurricane had been through it. I thought for sure this was the big one. And...it wasnt!!!<<
In VN also — you weren’t on that building they had to destroy (after freaking forever) on Sherman Way and Sepulveda were you?
And I remember that exact thought. I had been told “The Big One” would be a long sometime in my lifetime. I do recall grabbing the picture over the bed and then, when the shaking calmed telling her: GET SHOES!
I too was amazed it wasn’t The Big One.
I don’t suppose you are old enough to remember KHJ’s “Mecca Shores” commercials in 71...?
>>hey were showing aerial DARKNESS of the SF Valley. <<
Interestingly, the quake followed the 405 over the Sepulveda Pass.
There were stories of a pilot who was landing at LAX just as it hit and having all the lights go out. He had to use a flashlight just to find his way to the terminal.
Besides the sounds, we had the darkness. Man, was it dark!
I pulled the passenger seat out of my car and went on a 9 day car camping journey of seeking the aftershocks, sleeping at Northridge and a few days in Big Bear seeing the people in a state of shock, chasing the ones out in that little desert town (don’t remember the names of the towns).
There was still plenty to see, to experience, and to learn from.
Plenty of small damage was coming from the after shocks and you still had to park away from popping roof tiles for instance , but I did learn how different the experience was for people in close proximity to each other.
In the heart of the worst hit areas, you could spend a couple of days and feel that you were in a war zone, with exhaustion and trauma, and stress being the norm, but then you could drive a mile away to buy groceries or gas, and everything, and everybody was completely normal and routine.
In Big Bear all the chimneys were down and people were sleeping in their cars, but the constant aftershocks were keeping them from getting any sleep and they were exhausted, I was in their main bar which was fairly crowded, and at one point I stomped the wood floor to create a noise and vibration, I will always regret doing that, even the males all looked scared, it was real fear, a submissive defeated fear, and I learned that sustained exposure to constant stress and fear of that nature can weaken people’s resistance to a point where they seem to break.
Hurricanes are truly exciting and invigorating to people, but a couple of weeks of earthquake and aftershock seems to have an effect similar to war to the population.
I remember that day like it was yesterday..and Im about 40 minutes away from Northridge, felt it good here, no power for two days, vases broke, and the noise, the noise is something you don’t forget
Trust me....don’t feel pissed.
Being close to the epicenter, I can tell you it was nothing I ever want to experience again. Best way I can describe it was a complete feeling of helplessness, unable to move due to the violence of the shaking while hearing things crashing around you, all in complete darkness.
Took me about an hour, normally a 10 minute drive, to get to elderly loved ones. On the way, I saw things I will never forget.
Be happy you were in Louisiana.
I was in the Four Seasons hotel for a wedding and experienced this earthquake. The hotel shook so bad, the water surged out of the kamode.
It's interesting that many people describe the sound very differently depending on where they were. Here in Camarillo it was ghostly shrieking and moaning combined with an awesome light show. I had to drag my wife away from the bedroom window where she was staring at sheets of what was apparently lightning off to the northwest, oblivious to the possible danger of broken windows. It wasn't power transformers; our power lines are underground.
We had very little damage considering the intensity of the shaking. The quake itself was bad enough but I think the aftershocks were just as scary. When a 5.1 hit the next morning we all wondered if we were getting the "real" big one. I still think of the tragedy of the L.A. motorcycle policeman who was heading downtown on his bike in the dark to assist. He sailed to his death off a collapsed freeway structure he had no way of seeing.
There was an earthquake in the San Fernando Valley in 1991 which caused slightly more deaths although it wasn't quite as strong a quake. The next winter I was riding an Amtrak train east from California. There was a very old woman on the train who was moving to Fort Worth because she had been terrified by the quake. She didn't know anyone there but she had gotten married there 60 years earlier and there had been lots of people at the wedding, so she was sure she could find someone she knew.
>> Here in Camarillo it was ghostly shrieking and moaning combined with an awesome light show.<<
I think that was a Bay City Rollers concert....
More information HERE.
It sounded like a freight train was coming through our house. We had shutters and could see nothing so cut our feet on the broken glass trying to get out of the house. Our aquarium exploded and we stepped on live fish in the dark, too. The 14 Freeway, going south out of Canyon Country, is where Officer Clarence Wayne Dean lost his life. He had gone out early to help with the earthquake and could not see that 14 had fallen down. The rebuilt interchange is dedicated to him. The 5/14 interchange was our of commission until May. I remember telling my husband that spring, that they had better work faster getting the 5 moving or somebody was going to get killed. One morning I was waiting on a ramp to go south on the 5 and saw one driver get out of his car and swing a 2/4 at the window of another car. I guess the other guy had cut him off or something and then they were both stuck on the ramp. Seriously, the whole ordeal was pretty overwhelming. I would never want to go through anything like that again.
I hear you. I lived through quakes large and small in L.A. from the 1960s through the early 2000s, but I was never unlucky enough to be close to the epicenter of one.
I remember our whole house rocking during the '71 Sylmar quake. We lived right across the fence from a DWP easement that had high tension towers. Two were right behind our house. I ran outside to see what the towers were doing. They had already stopped moving, but the electrical wires were dancing for as far as you could see.
I didn't get back home to Cali until April of '94. When I did, everyone I talked to, had a story to tell about the quake. My future wife told me that she was thrown from her bed in the hills of Burbank. One good buddy was spooked so badly by the quake that he permanently moved to Florida. Others told me of damage to personal goods, and many were getting their houses bolted to their foundations to prevent them from slipping off in any future disturbances. All of them described the feelings of shock and helplessness that you did.
No, I'm not sorry I missed all that.
Had I been home, I would have likely ridden it out in the Silverlake area where I lived at the time. From what I heard later, it wasn't too bad there.
I still remember the after-effects, though. People were still living in makeshift camps. Piles of bricks were still on nearly every street in the Valley. Seemed like everywhere you turned, people were either still talking about it, or cleaning up the damage. Because I'm in the building trades, I wound up doing lots of repair work that first year back.
I got home four months after the quake and noticed the same thing. Some people were deeply affected on a psychological level, while others who'd ridden it out in the same area seemed unfazed.
My wife (who's from Florida) had never experienced a quake of any kind, but she was tossed out of her bed by the Northridge quake. She shook it off, and had no lasting ill effects from the experience. I knew others who rode it out much further from the epicenter who were badly shaken by the experience.
I’m from Texas and I was one mile from the epicenter of the quake. You can have my experiences... gladly.
I had a buddy who did that. He'd lived in SoCal for well over a decade and had ridden out dozens of smaller quakes and innumerable tremors, but something about the Northridge quake spooked him so bad that he unhooked from his whole life and ran off to Florida.
Man, what tough luck. That had to piss you off.
Trust me, I never felt remorse for missing the worst of it, but as a native Angeleno, I felt I was missing in action during a time when everyone I loved was enduring a horrific experience. If that makes any sense.
I’ve lived in Texas for eight years now. A couple of years ago when we lived in Irving, there was a little 3.5 tremor and it made me feel like home again.
Weird, I know.
You are right, but I was really trying to point out about how earthquakes can affect one neighborhood, while not the other.
Sleeping in my car at Northridge I got caught up in the feel of the area, and was amazed when I drove out of it to buy some groceries, most of the city was unaffected and already forgetting what had happened among their neighbors.
“In the heart of the worst hit areas, you could spend a couple of days and feel that you were in a war zone, with exhaustion and trauma, and stress being the norm, but then you could drive a mile away to buy groceries or gas, and everything, and everybody was completely normal and routine.”
Yeah, I get that. I saw a lot of that after I came in April of that year. Now, it was four months after the big event, but I saw lots of Northridge locals going about their business as usual. In fact, most were.
At the same time, there were a few people I met who seemed to be genuinely traumatized by what they'd been through. Probably had a lot to do with each individual's experience. Some houses were almost a total loss, while their neighbors sustained little damage. Same with the people. Some were just damaged more than others.
My dog called it 36 hours before it hit.
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