Northridge earthquake shattered Los Angeles 25 years ago

A portion of the Bullock's department store in the Northridge Fashion Center collapsed after a severe earthquake struck Southern California, Monday, Jan. 17, 1994. The shopping center is located in the Northridge section of the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles.
A gas Main burns even as water from broken water mains flood a portion of Balboa Blvd. in the Grenada Hills portion of the Los Angeles Monday morning, Jan. 17, 1994. An Earthquake hit the Los Angeles area causing major damage and at least five deaths.
Al McMcNeill looks over the remains of his home in the Grenada Hills area of Los Angeles following a major earthquake on Jan. 17, 1994. California lawmakers are focusing on what to do about insurance companies fleeing the risky California market. Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quakenbush warned that unless some solution is reached before the Legislature adjourns Sept. 15, thousands of homeowners will find they cannot buy comprehensive insurance at any price.
Ray Hudson reacts as a friend's home goes up in flames at the Oak Ridge Trailer Park in Sylmar, Calif., after a major earthquake hit the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles in this Jan. 17, 1994, file photo. Ten years later, it's hard to imagine that so many parts of Southern California lay in ruins on Jan. 17, 1994, thousands of its buildings smashed, millions of its people shaken both emotionally and physically, 72 of them killed.
** FILE ** In this Jan. 17, 1994, file photo, the covered body of Los Angeles motorcycle officer Clarence W. Dean lays near his motorcycle which plunged off Highway 14 overpass that collapsed onto Interstate 5 in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. In a joint publication, to be released Thursday, May 22, 2008, of the U.S. Geological Survey and California Geological Survey, scientists for the first time have written a script detailing the devastation California would likely face if it were rocked by a monstrous 7.8-magnitude earthquake.
Two California Highway Patrol officers walk on a collapsed portion of eastbound Interstate 118 at Hayvenhurst Avenue in Grenada Hills, Calif., Jan. 17, 1994, after an earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale s truck Southern California.
Emergency crews examine the section of Interstate-14 at the Interstate-5 intersection, on Monday, Jan. 17, 1994 after a major earthquake caused a structural collapse.
California Governor Pete Wilson views earthquake damage that caused the death of a California Highway Patrolman whose motorcycle ran off Interstate 14 while exiting to Interstate 5 when the highway separated in Los Angeles, Jan. 17, 1994. Nearly two dozen people have died in the earthquake.
U.S. President Bill Clinton signs a declaration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 17, 1994 declaring the area damaged by a major earthquake in the Los Angeles area a disaster zone eligible for federal aid.
FILE - In this Jan. 17, 1994 file photo, a Los Angeles police officer stands in front of the Northridge Meadows Apartment building, after the upper floors of the structure collapsed onto the open garages and first story, killing 16 people. Los Angeles hopes to follow San Francisco's lead in upgrading so-called “soft-story” buildings, multi-story structures with open first floors such as store fronts or garages that are in danger of collapsing during an earthquake. Officials are expected to provide details about a proposed census of L.A.s soft-story structures at a Buildings at Risk conference Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013.
FILE - In this Jan.17,1994 file photo, rescue workers walk past the Northridge Meadows Apartments that collapsed during the earthquake in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles city councilman wants to find buildings that could collapse in an earthquake. CouncilmanTom LaBonge is proposing a city inventory of so-called "soft-story" buildings, those where the top stories could collapse onto the lower floor during a major temblor.
A small angel figurine sits on a cracked Balboa Boulevard in the Northridge section of the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, Jan. 17, 1994. The figurine was placed on the street by an unidentified person after a violent earthquake shook southern California.
The covered body of Los Angeles motorcycle officer Clarence W. Dean, 46, lays near his motorcycle which plunged off the Highway 14 overpass that collapsed onto Interstate 5 in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles Monday, Jan. 17, 1994, during Monday's earthquake that struck Southern California.
A portion of the Santa Monica Freeway near La Cienega in Los Angeles has fallen away due to a major earthquake Monday morning, Jan. 17, 1994.
Aerial view showing the collapse of Southbound 14 at Interstate 5 near Reseda, Calif. on Monday Jan. 17, 1994 pre-dawn earthquake in the San Fernando Valley.
The Santa Monica Freeway is split apart near the LA Cienega overpass early Monday Jan. 17, 1994 after a major quake struck the Los Angeles basin shortly before dawn.
A Los Angeles police officer stands in front of the Northridge Meadows Apartment, Jan. 17, 1994 in Los Angeles, after the structure collapsed during an earthquake killing at least 12 people in Los Angeles.
Eunis Larios holds her 3-year-old son, Ever, at their campsite at the Valley Plaza Recreation Center in North Hollywood, Calif., Jan. 17, 1994. She and her family, including daughter Evelyn, 5, right, were displaced when their home was damaged by Monday's quake.
FILE - In this Jan. 17, 1994 file photo, the covered body of Los Angeles Police Officer Clarence Wayne Dean, 46, lies near his motorcycle which plunged off the State Highway 14 overpass that collapsed onto Interstate 5, an interchange that is now named in his memory. Dean was reporting to work in the predawn darkness and apparently never saw the collapsed bridge. The Northridge earthquake was felt over a broad area of Southern California, causing widespread death and destruction. While the state has made strides in retrofitting freeways and hospitals, work remains to strengthen concrete buildings and housing with underground parking.
This is an aerial view of state highway 118 that separated on Jan. 17, 1994 in Los Angeles, California, during the severe earthquake that hit Southern California. The quake centered in the San Fernando Valley, Knocked power out throughout the area and shock buildings from San Diego to Las Vegas.
Spectators watch a building burn amid glass shards and other rubble in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles in the early morning hours of Jan. 17, 1994, following a major earthquake that hit Los Angeles.
A 64-car freight train carrying hazardous materials was derailed between the Chatsworth and Northridge section of the San Fernando Valley, about 30-miles north of downtown Los Angeles, Jan. 17, 1994, after a pre-dawn earthquake rocked Southern California. There were no immediate reports of leaks, and no reports of injuries in the derailment.
An unidentified resident watches as a home along Santa Monica Boulevard burns in the background after an earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale shook southern California, Jan. 17, 1994
Medical personal work a triage unit outside Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar, Calif., to help some of the dozens of people injured in the earthquake, Jan. 17, 1994, that struck Southern California.
The sun sets behind a haze of dust on the south-west end of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, Jan. 17, 1994, kicked up by a major earthquake that hit the area early in the day.
An unidentified man is treated for injuries at an emergency unit setup outside Olive View Medical Central in Sylmar, Calif., Jan. 17, 1994, after a major earthquake rocked Southern California. The violent quake struck before dawn turning freeways into rubble, collapsing buildings with savage power and igniting fires. At least 22 people have been reported dead.
FILE - In this Jan. 17, 1994 file photo, the covered body of Los Angeles Police Officer Clarence Wayne Dean, 46, lies near his motorcycle which plunged off the State Highway 14 overpass that collapsed onto Interstate 5, after a magnitude-6.7 Northridge earthquake. The U.S. Geological Survey said more than 143 million people in the continental U.S. live in an earthquake zone and are exposed to potentially damaging ground shaking.
The parking structure at the Northridge Fashion Centre in the Northridge section of the South Fernando Valley near Los Angeles is collapsed after a severe earthquake struck Southern California, Jan. 17, 1994.
Two unidentified people huddle on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles, Calif., following a major earthquake that shook Southern California, Jan. 17, 1994.
Luduvy Abramo, left, and Joyce Miranea show the fear on their faces following a severe earthquake in Los Angeles, Jan. 17, 1994.
Emergency room personel at Ceders-Sinai Hospital help some of the scores of injured, Jan. 17, 1994 in Los Angeles, during the severe earthquake that swept through Southern California. At least 16 people died.
FILE - In this Jan.17, 1994, file photo, rescue workers walk past the Northridge Meadows Apartments that collapsed during the earthquake in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles City Council is expected to pass a retrofitting law Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, requiring costly upgrades of thousands of older wood and concrete apartment buildings that would be vulnerable to collapse in a major earthquake.
Rescue workers carry a survivor from a damaged apartment complex in the Northridge section of Los Angeles on Jan. 17, 1994. An earthquake caused the building to collapse killing more than a dozen people.
A fireman looks desperately for water as the Oak Ridge Trailer Park in the Sylmar section of the San Fernando Valley, about 35 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, burns after a severe earthquake struck southern California, Jan. 17, 1994.
Bricks and debris surround a building housing Ara's Pastry on Hollywood Boulevard in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles, Jan. 17, 1994, following a severe earthquake.
Marieny Garcia, 20, left, is joined by Maribel K. Garcia, 17, as they sit beneath a quilt stretched between their cars near the Santa Clarita Boys and Girls Club in Santa Clarita, Calif., Jan. 18, 1994. Sitting on the hood at right is 2-year-old Anita Garcia. Many people are camping out with their cars rather than spend the night in a shelter following Monday's deadly earthquake.
Rescue officials gather at the Northridge Meadows apartments in the Northridge section of Los Angeles after an earthquake, measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale caused the building to collapse, Jan. 17, 1994. At least a dozen people died in the collapse.
A crashed vehicle sits against part of the Santa Monica Freeway that separated during a severe earthquake that struck southern California, Jan. 17, 1994.
-+ cries after being told by Dave Thompson of the Los Angeles City fire department that her 14-year-old son had been killed in the collapse of her apartment in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles after an earthquake struck Southern California, Jan. 17, 1994. Her husband was also found dead.
A resident of Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles removes his belongings from his damaged dwelling after a violent earthquake hit southern California, Jan. 17, 1994.
A section of San Fernando Boulevard suffers from a transversing thrust crack that invites people to stop and photograph the damage, Jan. 17, 1994 in Sylmar, California, after a major earthquake rocked Southern California.
Aerial view of the tent city at Winnetka Recreation Center in the Northridge area of Los Angeles, Jan. 23, 1994. Thousands of people moved into tent cities after their homes were damaged in the severe earthquake of Jan. 17.
A portion of the outfield structure at Anaheim Stadium collapsed, Jan. 17, 1994, after a severe earthquake hit the Los Angeles area.
Several trailer homes are burned to the ground at the Oak Ridge Trailer Park in Sylmar, Calif., Jan. 17, 1994, after a severe earthquake struck southern California. At least 24 people were killed.
People check out an vehicle that was caught on the Simi Valley freeway as a major earthquake hit and buckled the span in the resada portion, Jan. 17, 1994 in Los Angeles.
Miguel Lopez, right, and Armand Mossoff carry their furniture in front of a collapsed apartment building in Studio City, Calif., Jan. 17, 1994, after a pre-dawn temblor caused major damage to the San Fernando Valley region.
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Twenty-five years ago this week, a violent, pre-dawn earthquake shook Los Angeles from its sleep, and sunrise revealed widespread devastation, with dozens killed and $25 billion in damage.

A look back at the damage, deaths and developments in seismic safety since the disaster:

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THE QUAKE

At 4:31 a.m. on Jan. 17, 1994, a hidden fault lurking under the city’s San Fernando Valley neighborhoods unleashed a magnitude 6.7 earthquake that shattered buildings, broke water mains and ignited fires.

The so-called blind thrust fault — one with no surface features to reveal its presence — caused a block of earth to move upward. Most of the energy was released toward mountains that line the northern side of the valley, but there was more than enough energy sent in other directions to cause devastation.

The ground shook horizontally and vertically for up to 10 seconds, most strongly in an area 30 miles (48 kilometers) in diameter around LA’s Northridge neighborhood, according to the public-private partnership Earthquake Country Alliance . It was felt as far away as Las Vegas.

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DEATHS AND INJURIES

The state said at least 57 died in the earthquake, though a study issued the following year put the death toll at 72, including heart attacks. About 9,000 were injured.

The greatest concentration of deaths occurred at the Northridge Meadows, a 163-unit apartment complex where 16 people were killed when it collapsed onto the parking area below, crushing first-floor apartments.

The catastrophe at Northridge Meadows revealed a particular seismic hazard due to so-called soft-story construction in which a building’s ground level has large open areas for purposes such as parking spots or shop windows.

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DAMAGE

The widespread damage to buildings, freeways and infrastructure made the Northridge quake the costliest U.S. disaster at the time.

According to Earthquake Country Alliance, 82,000 residential and commercial units and 5,400 mobile homes were damaged or destroyed, nine parking structures toppled, nine hospitals were evacuated due to structural or other problems, seven key freeway bridges collapsed, and hundreds more were damaged.

Some 200 steel-frame high-rises sustained cracked welds.

Among vivid images from the quake were scenes of vehicles stranded high on an elevated section of freeway with the road fallen away in front and behind, and the wrecked motorcycle of a police officer who plunged to his death off the end of a broken overpass while rushing to work in the early morning darkness.

The California Department of Transportation, which had already retrofitted many of the bridges that ended up being damaged, would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to further strengthen numerous bridges identified as being at risk.

The damage to hospitals led the state to require strengthening of those buildings.

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LEGACY

Since Northridge there has been a push toward progress — sometimes frustratingly slow — on everything from making buildings safer to increasing society’s overall ability to deal with seismic threats.

In 2008, an annual earthquake drill known as the Great ShakeOut began in Southern California to teach the basic safety technique of “drop, cover and hold on.” Initially based on a scenario of a magnitude 7.8 quake on the southern end of the mighty San Andreas fault, the drill has since spread across the United States and around the world.

In 2015, Los Angeles enacted a mandatory retrofit ordinance aimed at preventing loss of life in major earthquakes at the city’s most vulnerable buildings. It covered about 13,500 “soft-story” buildings like Northridge Meadows and some 1,500 buildings with “non-ductile reinforced concrete” construction.

The ordinance, however, allowed a process spanning seven years for retrofitting of soft-story buildings and 25 years for non-ductile reinforced concrete buildings.

Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey announced its fledgling West Coast earthquake early warning system was ready for broad use by businesses, utilities, transportation systems and schools after years of development and testing of prototypes. The system detects the start of an earthquake and sends alerts that can give warnings ranging from several seconds to a minute before shaking arrives, depending on distance from the epicenter. That can be enough time to slow trains, stop industrial processes and allow students to scramble under desks.

This month, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a mobile app that uses the early warning system to alert Los Angeles County residents when there is an earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or greater. Other mobile apps are in development.

Also this month, the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. released a guide aimed at helping businesses minimize disruptions from major earthquakes, taking advantage of information technologies such as the digital cloud to keep a company working even if its physical systems are destroyed or inaccessible.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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