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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Twenty Years After: The Whittier Earthquake, Living in SoCal

(Woops, I knew there was something wrong, the Whittier earthquake hit October 1, 1987 and then another strong aftershock on the fourth-found the article when looking for the fires and the date was todays' date, but it was a 23 day old article, oh well, you get the drift, living in LA certainly has it's moments)

Well, was it really 20 years ago? It started like a freight train noise. My oldest daughter (my only daughter at the time-now I have three) was in her bathroom brushing her teeth. The house began to shake, and as I looked at the corner of the room, the house was actually twisting.
I met her in the doorway and we held on to each other for dear life, not knowing when it would stop, or if it was going to get worse.

We had house guests at the time, and the husband was in the shower. He came running out stark strip naked and paniced. His wife was uptown Whittier getting out of her car as the buildings started collapsing. It was SO frightening, there are just no words for it.

But here is something REALLY weird. My mom had called me a few minutes before telling me she had a dead battery and was waiting for the auto club. They had told her they would be a little late because they had DOZENS of calls about dead batteries in that neighborhood. As it happens, the Whittier fault line ran just a block from her apartment. In her apartment alone there were seven dead batteries that morning. Is that a coincidence? I don't think so.

After the quake hit, the phones went out due to the tremendous amount of traffic. My dad was in school at the time several miles away. He showed up about an hour and a half after the quake hit at my house on his way home. They had canceled the classes at Citrus College and he couldn't understand why, the quake he said didn't feel THAT bad. I told him that they were saying Whittier was the epicenter and he didn't believe me. So I followed him home, and the closer to Uptown Whittier you got, the more damage there was, whole buildings collapsed. Then we got to their apartment and walked in. There was my mother sitting stupefied. Everything in her kitchen cabinets and refrigerator was a broken mess in the floor. Her china cabinet fallen with almost everything broken, and the floor buckled, but the building still standing. The auto club had not gotten there yet with all the turmoil.

Now twenty years later, Uptown Whittier has pretty much gotten back on it's feet, but alot has changed. So many businesses closed down, for one, my favorite Italian restaurant where you ordered ala carte-choice of pasta-choice of sauce and side dishes. Cheap and DELICIOUS. We used to go there often, but the quake was the end of that. So much has changed, and here we are, twenty years later, remembering the day our earth shook us like nothing I have ever felt before or since.

Now the Southland is being devastated by fires. Living in SoCal has it's pluses and minuses, twenty years ago today, was a minus, as is today. Please keep all those suffering and who have lost their homes in your prayers. READ>>>>>>>>

"It was nuclear winter. It was like Armageddon. It looked like the end of the world," Mitch Mendler, a San Diego firefighter, said as he and his crew stopped at a shopping center parking lot to refill their water truck from a hydrant near a restaurant.

At least 14 fires were burning in Southern California. From San Diego to Malibu, more than 150 miles up the Pacific coast, authorities said that at least 655 homes and 168 businesses or other structures had been destroyed.

"We have literally the perfect firestorm going on," said San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts. "We're a long ways from containment if there is such a thing given these winds."

More than 265,000 people in numerous communities were warned to leave their homes, at least 250,000 residents in San Diego County alone. "It's probably closer to 300,000," Roberts said. More 200,000 reverse 9-1-1 calls - calls from county officials to residents - were made, alerting people to evacuate, he said.

Whittier's Big One: 2 decades later

Earthquake killed 8, displaced thousands
By Sandra T. Molina Staff Writer

WHITTIER - Twenty years ago today, the city and surrounding communities woke up at the same time: 7:42 a.m.

What was first reported as a magnitude-6.1 earthquake was later downgraded to 5.9, but for many the Whittier Narrows Earthquake was the Big One and still is.

The temblor, which lasted about 20 seconds and killed eight people, occurred on a previously unknown, concealed thrust fault, according to the Southern California Earthquake Data Center.

One of the deaths, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, was a Southern California Edison worker who was buried by a landslide in the Muir Park area of the San Gabriel Mountains while working with a crew installing footings for a high-tension power tower north of Pasadena.

It was the strongest earthquake to hit the Los Angeles area since the 6.6 Sylmar quake of 1971 that killed 64 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Whittier Fault runs from Chino Hills to Whittier to Yorba Linda and has a slip rate of between 2.5 and 3 millimeters annually.

It is part of the bigger Puente Hills Fault, which stretches from west of downtown Los Angeles to the Puente Hills area.

The Southern California Earthquake Data Center has estimated the Whittier Fault could generate up to a magnitude-7.2 quake.

A magnitude-5.3 aftershock occurred three days after the 1987 Whittier Narrows quake.

Damage to businesses, homes, roads and utilities in 1987 was estimated at $358 million.

In Whittier alone, the Oct. 1 temblor caused $100 million in destruction.

Despite the widespread devastation, experts say the quake, which was felt in Las Vegas, offered just a taste of the power building up below the ground near Whittier.

A Harvard geologist said in 2004 that the Whittier Narrows Earthquake ruptured only about 10 percent of the fault.

The damage spurred the City Council to establish a 521-acre earthquake recovery redevelopment project area to help the city's recovery a month after the event.

The project area enabled the city to capture property taxes that would have normally gone to counties and schools.

The city will be able to collect property tax from the project until 2037.

Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital received 170 patients in the quake's aftermath, according to hospital officials.

City Hall was not damaged, according to Whittier officials, and was used as housing for essential employees in the immediate days after the temblor.

Other cities sent aid.

The city of Santa Fe Springs donated money, and the city of Los Angeles sent badly needed signs warning residents that buildings were not safe to enter.

Whittier building officials received hundreds of inspection requests per day during the first few days after the quake.

About 100 chimneys tumbled at homes in the city's historic district, and 17 homes were destroyed.

The inspections continued for a year.

Some 1,000 people were evacuated from a square-mile area of Whittier and police stood guard to prevent looting.

Most of the schools in Whittier were open to students except for the older, multi-story Whittier High School.

It suffered $1 million in structural damage and did not reopen until five days later.

Displaced people were evacuated to Red Cross shelters at the Whittier Community Center, 7630 S. Washington Ave., and at California High School, 9800 S. Mills Ave.

A total of 9,000 people were displaced in and around Whittier, and about 10,000 structures were damaged and destroyed.


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