A Look Back at The Northridge Quake: Facts & Figures - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

A Look Back at The Northridge Quake: Facts & Figures

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We are looking back 20 years this week to the Northridge Earthquake on January 17th 1994.

Some details of that traumatic event that you may have forgotten.


According to the California Earthquake Data Center at Caltech:

The quake hit at 4:30am , 6.7 Magnitude

Faults Involved:  Northridge Thrust (also known as Pico Thrust) and several other faults experienced minor rupture

Epicenter:  20 miles west-northwest of Los Angeles, 1 mile south-southwest of Northridge

Type of Fault: Blind Thrust

Duration:  While the actual rupture of the fault only lasted about 8 seconds, but because of amplification and reverberation of the seismic waves  most people felt shaking for 20 to 30 seconds. 

The quake was felt from Orange to Ventura Counties, with impacted areas covering more than 2,500 square miles and 50 cities.

Caltech says the earthquake produced the "strongest ground motions ever instrumentally recorded in an urban setting in North America."


57 deaths directly attributed to the quake. 

Approximately 12,000 injuries. 

Up to 114,000 people left homeless. 

100 major alarm fires.

Approximately 449,000 homes/apartments damaged or destroyed 

Nearly 9,000 public and commercial buildings damaged or destroyed 

More than $20 billion in damage, According to FEMA, this was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history at that time.

According to the DWP, 25% of the city's power system was knocked out , and took nearly two weeks to repair.  Also, the California Aquaduct sustained numerous leaks and cracks, and there was moderate damage to the city's treatment plants, underground pipes and reservoirs. 

Though the Aquaduct was repaired in seven days, a "boil order" was in effect for two weeks.

L.A. City Fire reported that there were numerous natural gas leaks – especially along Balboa Boulevard in Granada Hills.  Most of the leaks involved pipelines that were older than 30 years at the time.

When the quake struck, Caltrans was in the midst of a multi-billion dollar freeway retrofitting program to strengthen freeway crossings.  Both of the freeways that were thought to be strong enough to withstand a moderate earthquake( like the Northridge quake) failed. 


I-10 (Santa Monica Freeway) Reopened  April 11, 1994.

I-5 and State Highway 14 interchange – Partially reopened July 8, 1994; fully reopened at the end of Feb., 1995

State Highway 118 (damaged bridges at Gothic Avenue and Bull Creek)- fully reopened on May 18, 1994


$80 million in federal emergency funds was used to repair the Coliseum alone

--Northridge Meadows Apartments , 9565 Reseda Blvd.

A three-story wood frame 163 unit apartment complex.  FEMA says because the first story was of "soft" construction, the initial shock of the quake caused the second and third floors to "pancake" down onto the first floor.

Almost 24 hours after the first jolt struck, the entire complex was searched and cleared of all victims.  Final toll: 16 dead and 30 people rescued.  Unconfirmed number of injuries.  Another housing complex stands in the spot today.

--Northridge Fashion Center,  9301 Tampa

The earthquake demolished the parking structure, trapping a man (Salvador Pena)who  was running a sweeper.  He was rescued by firefighters using jackhammers after being buried nine hours.  Six of the mall's stores were damaged, including the Bullock's, which was demolished and rebuilt the following year.

--Cal State Northridge:

Fires broke out in three science buildings at the school, causing light structural damage. Multi-story parking structure destroyed. Three physical rescues; no fatalities.

--Chatsworth & Balboa in Granada Hills

The side of this building fell off when the end walls collapsed and separated from the main unit over the full height of the building.   The building was red-tagged.

--St. John's Hospital, Santa Monica Blvd. & 20th St. in Santa Monica

Severe damage to the older buildings, which were red-tagged. Hospital has since been rebuilt.

--St. Vibiana's Cathedral, 114 E. 2nd  St., downtown L.A.

Heavily damaged in quake.  Archdiocese tried to demolish it, but preservationists saved it.  Today it's being considered as a site for a restaurant.  Main Catholic church, Our Lady of the Angels, opened in 2002.


Mayor Richard Riordan declared a state of emergency and a dusk-to-dawn curfew was put into effect for several days.

Governor Pete Wilson issued a disaster declaration for the entire L.A. County, and the National Guard was called in.

President Clinton signed a major disaster declaration on Feb. 12, 1994, freeing up federal money for disaster relief.


State legislation established the California Earthquake Authority : a program that offers minimal earthquake insurance coverage at a high premium and deductible.

Standard quake insurance – the kind that was available before the '94 quake – is no longer sold.

A law was passed requiring water heaters to be strapped in place.

Seismologists now can map out areas with the most serious seismic activity quickly, thanks to monitoring systems installed throughout the state.

In his budget proposal last week, Governor Brown provides money to hire an additional three seismic researchers to monitor quake activity and active faults – bringing the number up to four.

In 1994, following the quake, SB 1953 was passed, requiring hospitals throughout the state to comply with stricter seismic requirements, with the goal being that in the event of another big quake, hospitals will be the last buildings standing.

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