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4.7 California Quake: Retrospective on Most Damaging U.S. Quakes

By Tara MacIsaac
Epoch Times Staff
Created: March 12, 2013 Last Updated: March 14, 2013
Related articles: United States » West
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4.7 California quake: An earthquake near Anza, Calif., registering 4.7 on the Richter scale did not cause significant damage, according to reports on Monday. Other quakes in California’s history, however, have killed hundreds or thousands, and are the most damaging in U.S. history.

Quakes in California's past: A resident and a cameraman look at damage to the Kaiser Permanente Building following the Northridge earthquake, on Jan. 17, 1994. The earthquake measured 6.7 on the Richter scale and was centered in the San Fernando Valley. (Hal Garb/AFP/Getty Images)

Quakes in California's past: A resident and a cameraman look at damage to the Kaiser Permanente Building following the Northridge earthquake, on Jan. 17, 1994. The earthquake measured 6.7 on the Richter scale and was centered in the San Fernando Valley. (Hal Garb/AFP/Getty Images)

While the earthquake that hit California about 100 miles southeast of Los Angeles on Monday did not cause significant damage, California has been the site of some of the worst earthquakes in U.S. history.

According to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data from 1811 to 2003, the 1906 earthquake in California that killed about 3,000 people was the most deadly in the nation. Raging fires spread in San Francisco after the earthquake, and the area was hit with about $500 million in damages.

In more recent history, the 6.7-magnitude Northridge earthquake of 1994 killed three dozen people, injured nearly 9,000, and caused about $20 billion in damages, according to Daily News reports.

“It was like the devil was waking up … it was a horrifying feeling,” an earthquake victim told the Daily News at that time.

The Long Beach earthquake of March 1933, 6.3 on the Richter scale, took 115 lives and $40 million in property damage, according to a USGS report. It “eliminated all doubts regarding the need for earthquake resistant design for structures in California,” states the report.

Juanita Lovret recounted the experience in a 2011 article for the Orange County Register: “Like many other Tustin families, we were still at the supper table when a giant roar shook the house. We tried to stand as a thunderous pounding threatened to break through the ceiling, but with the table rocking back and forth, it was impossible.”

When the quaking stopped, Lovret’s family was able to get up from the table and survey the damage—and realize how luck they were they didn’t go outside when it started.

“The steps and porch were littered with bricks,” Lovret recalled. “The giant old walnut tree was still dipping down, brushing the dirt with its branches. We quickly surveyed the damage and discovered the chimney had collapsed, cascading bricks down the slope of the roof onto the area outside the back door. We suddenly realized that if we had been able to get up, we’d probably have been buried by the avalanche.”

The first significant earthquake in California’s recorded history occurred near Los Angeles in 1769. The Gaspar de Portola Expedition recorded four violent shocks, and although the record is incomplete, “most authorities speculate … that this was a major earthquake,” states the USGS report.

In March 1872, an earthquake followed by thousands of aftershocks near Lone Pine, Calif., killed 27 people.

A 6.3-magnitude earthquake killed 13 and caused $8 million in damages in Santa Barbara in June 1925.

Kern County was hit in July 1952 with an earthquake and aftershocks above 6 on the Richter scale, killing 12 and causing $60 million in property damage.

While California dominates the USGS chart for earthquake-related deaths in the nation, Alaska has been the second most prevalent site, and Hawaii has also seen its share of devastation.

In 1946 on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, an earthquake killed five people, but the resulting tsunami killed 159 people in Hawaii. In Prince William Sound, Ala., in 1964, 113 people died—15 in the earthquake and 98 in the resulting tsunami.

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