- 1971 San Fernando earthquake
title=1971 San Fernando earthquake
date= 9 February 1971
magnitude = 6.6 Mw
countries affected = USA (
casualties = 65 killedThe 1971 San Fernando earthquake (also known as Sylmar earthquake) struck the
San Fernando Valleynear Sylmar at 6:00:55 a.m. PST on February 9 1971, with a magnitude of 6.6. [http://www.data.scec.org/chrono_index/sanfer.html Southern California Earthquake Data Center] ]
There are various names for this
earthquake. Seismologists call it the San Fernando earthquake. USGS'Sylmar Quake' or 'Sylmar earthquake' is the name initially given to the event by local media outlets, because the worst damage was to the Olive View Medical Center, located in Sylmar. Local veterans of 'the Sylmar Quake' commonly refer to this seismic event as the 'February Ninth' quake. [ [http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/states/events/1971_02_09.php Historic Earthquakes ] ]
The Southern California Earthquake Data Center reports that the epicenter was on the other side of the
San Gabriel Mountainsfrom Sylmar, as indicated on this [http://maps.google.com/maps?q=34°+24.67'+N,+118°+24.04'+W&spn=.386934,.662750&t=h&iwloc=A&hl=en Google Map] . This Instrumental Intensity Map [ cite web | author = |url= http://www.scvhistory.com/scvhistory/lw7102.htm | title= Feb. 9, 1971 'Sylmar' Earthquake Instrumental Intensity Map | publisher= Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society| accessdate=2004-07-04 ] identifies the same location using a star shaped symbol "centered in Iron Canyon, in the Sand Canyon area of Canyon Country". These maps help explain why the seemingly distant cities of Sylmarand San Fernando received the brunt of the da San Gabriel Mountains, extending slightly into the northeastern end of the densely populated San Fernando Valley.
The earthquake ruptured a segment of the
San Fernando fault zone, a set of north-dipping, high-angled reverse faults along the southeastern margin of the San Gabriel Mountains.
It caused more than 10 miles of discontinuous surface ruptures with average displacements of about 3 feet both horizontally and vertically. A strong
aftershocksequence followed the main shock and included four quakes in the Magnitude 5 range.
The quake claimed 65 lives and caused more than half a billion dollars in damage, including the destruction of two
hospitals, two freeway interchanges and the Lower Van Norman Dam. Damage to the dam caused concern that the dam, of the earthen bulwark type, might collapse, in whole or in part. [http://www.lafire.com/famous_fires/710209_SylmarEarthquake/020971_LAHerald_KillerQuake.htm LAFire.com] ] Much confusion ensued as various agencies declared a need for the mandatory evacuation of 40,000 people,cite news |title=Day of Disaster|publisher=Los Angeles Times |date=1971-02-10] or voluntary evacuations of various portions of the San Fernando Valley below the dam. This depended on which agency was consulted, and often the evacuees were not able to be informed of the status of an evacuation in a timely manner, often returning home just as the police arrived to notify them of a new evacuation order, or evacuating at a moment when officials decided not to evacuate. Communication was made difficult by disruption of telephone, water, and electrical service.
The most spectacular damage included the collapse of structures at
Olive View Hospitalin Sylmar (which had opened just a month prior to the earthquake) and at the Veterans Administration Hospitalat San Fernando, where 49 people died. The earthquake pushed Olive View Medical Center a foot off its foundation, causing the first floor to collapse, killing three patients and a hospital worker. Twelve overpass bridges fell into freeway lanes, including the freeway overpass connecting the Interstate 5 freeway and the Foothill Freeway that resulted in the death of at least two people. The recently completed Interstate 5 and Antelope Valley Freeway interchange was destroyed as well. (This interchange was rebuilt and reopened in 1973, but collapsed again 21 years later during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, killing one.) Landslides were widespread and caused extensive damage throughout the San Gabriel Mountains.
The earthquake disrupted several motion pictures being filmed at the time in the
Los Angelesarea, including " The Omega Man". The quake also served as the inspiration for the 1974 film, "Earthquake".
The quake occurred just as many
radiostations were beginning their hourly newsprogramming. On Los Angeles AM station KMPC, newscaster Tom Wayman was interrupted halfway through his first story and said " [We're] having an earthquake--a very severe earthquake." On another station, as recounted years later by Dick Clark, the announcer was startled by the shaking and started making flustered comments until he was sure it was over.
In response to the quake, building codes were strengthened and the
Alquist Priolo Special Studies Zone Actwas passed in 1972. The purpose of this act is to prohibit the location of most structures for human occupancy across the traces of active faults and to mitigate thereby the hazard of fault rupture. [ [http://www.data.scec.org/chrono_index/sanfer.html SCEDC | San Fernando Earthquake (1971) ] ]
* [http://www.archive.org/details/Earthqua1973 USDA-produced documentary from 1973 about the earthquake]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.