Los Angeles Vicinity, CA Earthquake, Feb 1971

Overpass Damage San Fernando Quake 2-10-1971.jpg Overpass Collapse San Fernando Quake 2-10-1971 2.jpg San Fernando Quake 2-10-1971 3.jpg San Fernando Quake 2-10-1971 4.jpg


Los Angeles (AP) -- A powerful earthquake jolted Southern California at dawn today causing at least 16 deaths, scores of injuries and heavy damage to buildings, highways, bridges and other facilities.
Authorities said 54 persons were unaccounted for at a Veterans Administration Hospital facility in the San Fernando Valley where seven bodies were found.
Police said two buildings at the facility were leveled by the 6:01 a.m. temblor.
Three others were reported killed at Olive View Sanitarium a mile away. Walls collapsed there.
The shock was centered in the rugged San Gabriel Mountains 26 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The San Fernando Valley is the closest major population center. Hard hit, too, were the towns of Newhall and Saugus, just 10 miles from the center.
The Veterans Administration facility was described as "quite old" with 420 beds. Victims were found amid rubble. Officials said five persons were seriously injured and 53 suffered minor hurts.
Travel into the Newhall - Saugus area, with a population of some 70,000, was virtually blocked by landslides and downed bridges and telephone communication was spotty.
The Newhall newspaper reported fires in the downtown district, virtually all windows in structures broken, and numerous injuries.
The coroner['s office reported four dead in Los Angeles County, which includes Newhall and Saugus. There were unofficial reports of other deaths.
The initial temblor and several strong aftershocks created cracks in the earth-fill dam of Van Norman Lake reservoir, largest in the city system with 6.7 billion gallons. Residents were ordered evacuated from the area in the heavily populated San Fernando Valley as "some leakage" was reported.
The quake caused widespread cracking of walls and plaster, broke thousands of windows, wrecked parts of freeways, destroyed several bridges including some over freeways.
Hospitals reported treating scores of persons for cuts and bruises from flying glass and falling bricks and plaster.
Experts said the shock was not the "great quake" that some have said will occur someday on the San Andreas, California's major fault, which traverses the state north-south. One seismologist placed the center "very close" to the San Gabriel fault, part of a network of earth fractures in the San Andreas system, and said there's a "strong suspicion" it was to blame. The San Gabriel fault caused a severe earthquake in 1893.
The shock was felt from Fresno to the north to the Mexican border to the south, a distance of 350 miles, and as far inland as Las Vegas, Nev.
Travel from Los Angeles airports was not affected by the quake.
About five hours after the quake Gov. Ronald Reagan declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles, a formal step making all resources of the state and various communities available in case of need.
Two interstate highways --Nos. 5 and 405 -- were closed at some points in the Los Angeles area because of buckled pavement or collapsed overpasses.
Experts assigned it a magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale, which rates major quakes at 7 or more. The shock was the strongest in this area since the devastating Tehachapi quake of 1952, which killed 12. That one was centered 100 miles north and had a magnitude of 7.2. Today's shock was rated as having approximately the same magnitude at the 1933 shock in nearby Long Beach which killed 115 persons and caused $40 million damage.
The quake hit as most of Los Angeles County's nearly 7 million residents were asleep, or getting ready for work. Many siad they were nearly knocked out of bed, and were startled by the clatter of dishes falling from shelves, plaster cracking and windows shattering.
A motorists on a freeway likened the effect to a blowout.
Damage was heavy in downtown Los Angeles and in its bedroom communities in the San Fernando Valley, population 1-3 million, which is even closer to the center. Hardest hit were two towns closest to the temblor, Newhall and Saugus, just 10 miles away.
There were hundreds of reports of shattered windows, including plate glass in stores and large panes in high rise buildings. Bricks and plaster cascaded into streets. The Golden State Freeway at the west end of the San Fernando Valley was closed due to cracking.
One man was reported killed when a bridge collapsed over the same freeway near Newhall.
Another was killed when the roof of an ancient brick structure in Los Angeles' skid row area, the Midnight Mission, fell in.
Another death was at Olive View Sanitarium in the San Fernando Valley where walls collapsed.
At the Olive View Hospital, about 200 persons were evacuated to a parking lot, then to an older building that was undamaged.
The badly damaged building, which was recently decicated, "sank a foot into the ground, and several small buildings collapsed," KROLL said.
Two persons were reported dead of heart attacks in the wake of the shake.
CIty and county schools were closed so damage could be appraised. So were several downtown buildings. Lockheed Aircraft, hit recently by financial woes, closed two plants pending safety inspection of buildings and cleanup of broken glass.
There were scenes of wild confusion as the quake accompanied by an ominous rumbling sound and violent rolling that lasted nearly a minute, struck as dawn was breaking.
Power lines snapped and transformers showered sparks plunging many areas into darkness. Phone service was knocked out in many areas. Gas mains snapped, with a rash of fires. Water mains parted. Power poles toppled.
Many large apartment buildings were evacuated with residents reported in near panic.
In ensuing hours hospitals in the San Fernando Valley reported receiving scores of injury cases, some walking in, other broght in by helicopter or in emergency vehicles. Corridors and admission desks were jammed. Most valley hospitals suffered at least broken windows and some had wall cracks.
In the San Fernando Valley community of Northridge housewife VIRGINIA WALTERS said she was sitting at the breakfast table "and the whole house began to shake terribly. The water cooler broke and about four gallons went on the kitchen floor." She said lamps toppled, dishes fell, sidewalks cracked and furniture was flipped over.
Said another housewife: "I was in my kitchen. I fell down and hung onto the sink and started praying."
Said a resident of a Los Angeles apartment: "I was virtually knocked out of bed. When I got out I could barely walk the floor was rolling so."
A woman reported residents of her large apartment building were "running around screaming" after the shock.
Motorists driving along commercial streets in Los Angeles, Hollywood and the valley reported sidewalks littered with broken glass. Hospitals reported numerous laceration injuries. Many traffic signals were out for hours.
Damage in communities up and down the coast from Los Angeles was generally light -- some broken windows, falling plaster, and items knocked from shelves. In the Simi Valley of Ventura County a wall fell out of an old hotel.
Telephone communications in the San Fernando Valley and to the hard hit communities of Newhall and Saugus. Travel to the latter towns was difficult due to landslides blocked roads and cracked bridges.
Fire destroyed a large drug store in a San Fernando Valley shopping center.
Police patroled damaged structures closely to prevent looting.
Los Angeles first major skyscraper was closed as a result of earthquake damage to its interior and to special structures designed to withstand the effects of earthquakes, a spokesman said.
The 32-story Occidental Tower, completed in the mid-1960s, suffered some sagging floors at the point where two sections of the building were joined by "seismic joints" constructed to provide flexibility under the stress of earthquakes.
Building officer WILLIAM C. GALLOWAY also reported that the first 11 floors of the building, located at 1150 S. Olive, had broken windows and fallen pieces of roof tile. The upper stories and an adjoining 11-story companion building were undamaged. About 5,000 persons work in the two buildings.
Two newer skyscrapers -- both 42 stories -- reported little or no damage.
The Crocker-Citizens National Bank, at 611 W. 6th St., had a few minor cracks but no other damage, officials said. Its 2,800 employes were at work.
The Union Bank Building, 445 S. Figueroa, reported no visible damage, although elevators were not in service and most of its 2,800 employes went home. Inspectors were checking the buildings elevators for damage.
In Sacramento, officials said the state's $2.8 billion water project survived with no apparent damage. Tunnels, pipes and canals for the project traverse the area hit, bringing water from the north that makes large populations feasible in once-arid Southern California.

The Fresno Bee And Republican California 1971-02-09



I was 14 years old when it hit just around daylight we lived in Le'Puente at the time. I clearly remember what it felt like as it wasnt my 1st but it was my last one until today in wichita kansas we had a 4.0 kinda strange to feel one in this part of the country.

February 1971

I was in my senior of high school. My father was already on the road to Valencia, we were preparing for school. We were one street below the Damn soon to be evacuated f
or two weeks, my high school closed. So scary. To this day I remember the moment, concern, my parents and moving out of our house temporarily

1971 Earthquake Sylmar, California

I was 11 years old. We lost our home. We were lucky to live. The worst thing I have ever gone through. There was no where to go. No water no bathrooms no where to sleep. Roads were no passable. After shock scared the life out of you. Everyone in our family survived, and we rebuilt. Now I live in Ohio. Praying my children never has to go through what we all went through.

1971 Sylmar, CA earthquake

I was only 4 1/2 when it hit, but remember what happened inside our home in exact detail! It has never become fuzzy in the slightest way!I was the only one out of bed yet.I was playing with the buckle latches on my little suitcaseright outside my mommy's open bedroom door.
We were living on Towne Av. in Pomona,CA. A Setting of a few older duplexes with a very crude driveway of crumbling tar. The only time it got loud around there was when the trash truck made it's rounds which would also vibrate our dwellings as it passed. I remember my mom screamed out my name and asked me where I was exactly in the house. When I told her I was in the hub of all our dots to other rooms, she demanded I stay there and not move an inch.She was in her bed, the bottom bunk of a rickity metal frame bunkbed with my 17 yr.old,6 ft.tall brother on the top. She was literally frozen in fear that he would pancake on top of her bed and all. I watched with her as the bed swayed away from the wall about 5 to 6 inches every few seconds.It felt like it lasted10 minutes with the perspective of a 4 yr. Old!

Earthquake February, 1971, Los Angeles, California

I was in California doing some Technical Service work for FOSECO INC at the Kaiser Steel Plant in Fontana. I was staying at the Holiday in in Ontario. My room was at Ground level and opened to the courtyard surounding the swimming pool.

I was getting out of bed and had opened the drapes a little to see outside when I saw the surface at the far end of the pool rise a little and sort of move like a wave toards me. At the same time the floor of the room trembled. I threw myself on the bed and just lay there as the room shook.

After the motion stopped I looked out the window and saw that a very lage amount of water had been thrown out of the pool. The light hanging on a cord over the table in my room was moving from side to side fot a distance of about 5 inches each way. Later that morning dayI received a call posponing my steel mill visit. The steel in the furnace that I was supposed to be working with that day had slopped out and contributed to stopping operations.

40th Anniversary of 1971 San Fernando Valley Earthquake

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the February 9, 1971 San Fernando Valley Earthquake in southern California where I grew up. I was almost 11 years old at the time and the oldest of 5 daughters aged 10, 8.6.4 & 2. We lived on a quiet cul-de-sac, Del Rio Place, in Granada Hills, California. We were within walking distance to our grade school, and our back yard backed up to Balboa Boulevard, a busy 4 lane that went through Granada Hills.

On this particular morning, my father had been traveling and his plane had flown in to LAX sometime during the wee hours of the morning. He had driven under the overpass that collapsed on Interstate 5 just a couple of hours before the earthquake hit. He and my mother were asleep in their upstairs master bedroom on one end of our home, with their gas fireplace burning as it had been a little bit chilly that night. When the earthquake hit about 6 am, my mother instinctivly knew that it was an earthquake and ran to the other end of the house to gather up us girls. My father thought that a plane had flown into our house! It e as though mother made it to our bedrooms even before the shaking stopped, but I am not sure she could have ran that fast! We had been thrown from our beds and the dresser drawers had spilled out over our rooms, along with all of the little knick-knacks, toys and pictures that were on our walls and shelves....so it was a real mess upstairs. My mom herded us all downstairs and outside. I remember watching a chandelier with a very long chain swinging in a complete circle like crazy as we ran down the stairs.

The kitchen was a complete disaster with all of the food from the pantry, shelves, refrigerator and everywhere now thrown to the floor along with broken dishes, drinking glasses and serving and bake ware mixed it. It was quite a sight! We made it outside and there were sirens blasting and smoke billowing up from homes in our area due to fires from broken gas lines...I remember being so thankful that our home was not on fire!

Our family had been planning to go away the coming weekend and for some reason we had packed our little overnight bags the night before the earthquake. I consider this to be such a blessing to my young mother, as it would have been very hard to find clothes for all of us and get us packed to leave so quickly. The police were in our neighborhood making sure everyone was out of their homes and safe, and telling us to evacuate immediately. We loaded into our cars never dreaming that it would be over a week before we were allowed back in to the area.

Our home's chimney had pulled away from our house, and the top story had lifted and come back down at a slight angle so this affected many things like plumbing, heating & AC...and I remember the wallpaper on our two story open stairway being buckled all along the ceiling line. I don't remember much more than that about the house, because we left so soon and when us children got to come back, my parents had most all of the initial mess cleaned up.

We drove out of our neighborhood without seeing any news so decided to drive north only to find that Saugus and Newhall had been hit very hard as well. I remember being very quiet in our car, which is quite a feat considering that it was filled with 5 frightened little girs. I remember my parents praying for us to get to safety and for God to guide them to the best place to go. We ended up making a very round-about long trip to my Great Aunt Wilma's home in Orange County, California, where we stayed for about 2 weeks if I remember correctly. My parents were able to return to the neighborhood about a week later to work on cleaning up all of the mess.

We ended up leaving this home because of extensive damage and moving to a little "Ranchette" in Canyon Country, CA after this, but I remember the frightening after-shocks and power outages that we had for months and months after the initial earthquake.

February 9th never goes by without me remembering back to that chilly, early morning when our lives changed in one minute.

Feb 1971 Earthquake Video

San Fernando Valley earthquake of Feb. 1971, Sylmar, California.

from archive.org

Feb 1971 Earthquake

I too remember the quake like it was yesterday! I was in High School and we couldn't go to school for about 2 weeks. My sister and I helped with the "Red Cross" taking care of feeding the people at the YMCA and watching kids. We were lucky that we only lost dishes and a few knick-knacks too. It was very scary too! We lost T.V. for a while, but then it came on and we got to see the damage it did. We were the lucky ones when all was said and done.

Earthquake February, 1971, Los Angeles, California

I was living alone in my apartment and all my family was here in Pennsylvania. The quake nearly threw me out of my bed and I remember having a hard time getting to the phone. It was my very first major earthquake and I was terrified. My apartment building on Berendo St. near Vermont and Third was old and the stairway wall got a huge crack up the wall. My neighbor, elderly, had a heart attack and unfortunately died a couple of weeks later. We traveled that evening to friends in the San Fernando Valley, encouraging them to evacuate because of the Dam but they refused. I found in the weeks that followed I was afraid to spend time alone so I stayed with a girl buddy in Long Beach for awhile. I was hocked at the resilience of the Californians, just another delay then business as usual. I traveled back home here to Pennsylvania and 9 months later our town experienced a flood! Thankfully, I have come a long way since I was 21!

Recollection of the '71 Quake

I was five at the time of the quake and remember it like it was yesterday. It was early and suddenly a terrific rumble emitted from all directions at once, I was looking up at the curtains at that time and managed to throw the covers over my head. I remember my Mom calling out to me, she was running down the hall and falling down only to have the house come up to meet her thus breaking her fall but throwing her off balance. It was the weirdest thing to witness, I thought the world was ending as she grabbed me and my Dad grabbed my sister. We went to the Master Bedroom because that was the strongest part of the house. I remember not being able to negotiate the hallway because the house was rocking off it's foundation. My Mom had to carry me. Amazingly I remember that there was little damage. Mostly dishes breaking and a few knick-knacks falling from some shelves. I recall many aftershocks and my Dad did not got to work because the roads were still considered dangerous.