1994 Northridge Earthquake

Permanently Parked

Rolando Otero

A curious young boy gets a closer look at the unbelievable, while spectators from above inspect the damage to their cars trapped under the Park Regency apartment building in Canoga Park; a result of the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

January 17, 1994, Canoga Park, CA

This photograph is part of a series of reports conducted by the Los Angeles Times from various locations, recording the destructive aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake.  The 6.7 magnitude earthquake shook the entire San Fernando Valley at 4:31 am on January 17, 1994. The force of the quake and its devastating effects were felt across all of Los Angeles County. Hundreds of buildings, homes, and apartment complexes were either badly damaged or completely destroyed. The two-story Park Regency Apartment Complex collapsed and crushed a row of 20 cars which were parked in parking spaces located underneath the building. 

Mandatory Credit: Rolando Otero/ The Los Angeles Times

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LA Times staff writers: Tracey Kaplan and Greg Krikorian, 1/18/1994


Ruptured

Patrick Downs

A series of catastrophic events followed the 1994 Northridge earthquake. In Granada Hills, in the middle of the 11600 block of Balboa Boulevard, a ruptured gas main burns behind a giant crater caused by the earthquake. Several homes adjacent to where the gas line ruptured exploded and were burned to the ground.

January 17, 1994, Granada Hills, CA

The 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake shook the entire San Fernando Valley at 4:31 am on January 17, 1994. It was the costliest natural disaster in United States history at that time and the total destruction was estimated at $20 billion dollars, with an estimated $49 billion of economic loss. The earthquake caused massive destruction to freeways, roads, and the overall transportation system of California.  On Balboa Blvd., two water mains broke causing an explosion that propelled a 300 pound chunk of concrete to fall through the roof of a home and a river of water to flow miles down the street. Subsequently, the ignition of a stalled car caused the broken gas main to ignite. The ensuing flames reached a height of hundred feet and created a ten foot deep crater. Ultimately, five homes on the same block burned to the ground. The Granada Hills incident was so severe it warranted a brief visit from then President Bill Clinton, two days later.

Mandatory Credit: Patrick Downs: Freelance Photographer/ The Los Angeles Times

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LA Times reporting: Julio Moran and Jeff Prugh, 7/17/1994/

LA Times staff writers: Tracey Kaplan and Greg Krikorian, 1/18/1994


Stranded

Al Seib

A portion of the Antelope Valley Freeway collapsed the morning of the 1994 Northridge earthquake. A tractor-trailer and a motorhome sits stranded on the raised stretch of the Interstate 5 freeway.

January 17, 1994, Santa Clarita, CA

The 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake shook the entire San Fernando Valley at 4:31 am on January 17, 1994, with an epicenter in Reseda, near Northridge, CA.  The Newhall Pass Interchange, the junction where the Interstate 5 (Golden State Freeway) and Interstate 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway) meet, collapsed during the earthquake’s 20 second tremor and its following aftershocks. Multiple sections of the 5 and 14 freeways in both the northbound and southbound directions collapsed on one another, and onto San Fernando Road.  Ironically, the Newhall Pass which had recently been rebuilt and reinforced from the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, broke apart in almost exactly the same location as before. As a result of the massive damage to multiple freeways in Los Angeles, transportation in California was deeply impacted for many months. It took over a year for the Interstates 5 and 14 to be completely repaired and the Newhall Pass was renamed the Clarence Wayne Dean Memorial Interchange after deceased LAPD motorcycle officer, Clarence Wayne Dean.

Mandatory Credit: Al Seib/ The Los Angeles Times

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LA Times staff writers: Tracey Kaplan and Greg Krikorian, 1/18/1994


City Limits

Steve Dykes

The southbound lanes of the Interstate 5 collapsed onto the Interstate 14 freeway junction where the Los Angeles City Limit begins in Santa Clarita. The photo captures LAPD officers investigating the scene of the disaster, and aiding victims involved in numerous crashes caused by the collapsed section of the freeway.

January 17, 1994, Los Angeles, California

The earthquake’s epicenter occurred near Northridge at 4:31 a.m. and had a 6.7 magnitude. The Northridge earthquake was the third major earthquake to occur in California after the earthquake of 1971 in San Fernando and the 1989 San Francisco-Oakland earthquake. The Northridge earthquake caused the Interstate 14 to fall onto the southbound lanes of the Interstate 5, resulting in multiple accidents and wreckage. The most tragic incident to occur at this location was the death of a LAPD motorcycle officer, Clarence Wayne Dean.  Dean fell to his death reporting to duty early that morning after leaving his Lancaster home, when the quake hit.  Dean driving south on the 14 Freeway in the early morning darkness rounded a bend on the transition road and plunged 30 feet from the roadway which had, unbeknownst to him, collapsed. The freeway interchange was renamed the Clarence Wayne Dean Memorial Interchange in honor of the fallen police officer.

Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes/ The Los Angeles Times

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LA Times staff writers: Tracey Kaplan and Greg Krikorian, 1/18/1994


The Construction of a New Beginning

Unknown/ The Los Angeles Times

Repair begins on the collapsed Interstate 5 Freeway before dawn.

January 18, 1994, Los Angeles County, CA

The Northridge earthquake’s epicenter near Northridge, CA caused considerable damage to almost every major city in Los Angeles County and is considered one of the most destructive and expensive in the history of the United States. The 6.7 magnitude earthquake which had numerous aftershocks, two of which measured in the 6.0 range of the Richter scale, was felt as far north as Oregon and as far south as the Mexican border.  Repairs to major freeways, which suffered some of the worst damage, such as the Interstate 10 (Santa Monica Freeway), Interstates 5 (Golden State Freeway), and Interstate 14 (Antelope Valley Freeway) took the California Department of Transportation months to over a year to repair and completely reopen these major freeways. Wreckage to freeways and major roadways had a region wide crippling effect for the heavily commuter and car dependent Los Angeles area. 

Mandatory Credit: The Los Angeles Times

The Northridge earthquake of 1994

LA Times staff writers: Tracey Kaplan and Greg Krikorian, 1/18/1994


Without a Face

Joel P. Lugavere

Residents of a three-story apartment complex emerge from the destruction left behind by the 1994 Northridge earthquake. A man stares out onto the street from his wall-less home at the devastated Northridge Meadows Apartments.

January 17, 1994, Northridge, CA

The Northridge Meadows apartment complex, located on Reseda Blvd. around two blocks from California State University, Northridge and approximately two miles from the epicenter of the Northridge earthquake’s 6.7 magnitude tremor was one of the most adversely affected locations of the many scenes of devastation throughout Los Angeles County.  To the horror of sleeping residents, when the earthquake hit in the predawn hour of 4:31am, sections of the 163-unit apartment complex’s top floors flattened in on itself completely crushing what was previously the first floor and trapping countless victims under debris. The Northridge earthquake resulted in 57 deaths and over 9,000 injuries. Of those 57 deaths, 33 were a result of structural failure, and of those 33, 16 were victims of the Northridge Meadows apartments, making it the site of the highest number of concentrated deaths due to the destruction of the earthquake.  

Mandatory Credit: Joel P. Lugavere/ The Los Angeles Times

The Northridge earthquake of 1994

LA Times staff writers: Ann W. O’Neill and Henry Chu, 1/24/1994/

Contributors: Miguel Bustillo, John Johnson and Julie Tamaki/ NBC Los Angeles Article: “25 Years Later: The Desperate Search for Survivors at Northridge Meadows Apartments”, 1/15/2019


Foundations Collapse

Joe Pugliese

A blue and white house located in the city of Fillmore near its historic downtown area in Ventura County was nearly destroyed by the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Despite its collapsed foundation and pillars that have broken loose from their moorings, this craftsman-bungalow style house was one of the last severely damaged houses that remained standing six months after the quake.

July 8, 1994, Fillmore, CA

The city of Fillmore, located approximately 30 miles from the 6.7 Northridge’s quake epicenter suffered some of the most severe damage compared to other cities of Los Angeles County. The rural and agricultural based town with its historic downtown Main Street, lined with turn-of- the-century brick buildings and craftsman houses was decimated by structural failures and fires.  The city, which had just undergone extensive renovations before the 1994 earthquake, saw vintage houses suffer collapsed foundations, while nearby mobile home parks were ravaged by fire. A total of five hundred buildings, including homes, were destroyed by the earthquake and sixty-one had to be torn down, costing the small rural city around 50 million dollars in damages. After the quake, houses such as the one pictured were left untouched for the next six months.  In the aftermath, the city of Fillmore was able to use the Northridge earthquake as an opportunity for improvements and redevelopment. 

Mandatory Credit: Joe Pugliese/ The Los Angeles Times

LA Times staff writers: Tracey Kaplan and Greg Krikorian, 1/18/1994

Los Angeles Daily News writer: Dana Bartholomew, 1/16/2014


Practice Makes Perfect: “The Great ShakeOut”

Allen J. Schaben

Four year old Ava Gougis and other Preschool children who attend the Joy Picus Development Center located in downtown Los Angeles’ City Hall are pictured hiding under desks as they participate in California’s annual statewide earthquake drill, “The Great ShakeOut.” The children located in L.A. City Hall’s rotunda were photographed during the earthquake drill on October 18th at 10:18 a.m., while Mayor Eric Garcetti held a press conference highlighting the importance of earthquake preparedness.

October 18, 2018, Los Angeles, CA

“The Southern California Great ShakeOut” which takes place on the third Thursday of October ever year requires that all Southern California schools and public buildings simulate a 17 second, 7.8 magnitude earthquake with an imagined epicenter of Northridge, CA. Part of the legacy of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, The Great ShakeOut began in 2008 as a statewide effort to help prepare citizens’ ability to react to seismic activity. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti held a press conference in City Hall on the 10th anniversary of the Great ShakeOut to demonstrate the building’s first earthquake early warning alert system (ShakeAlert) that was recently installed. 

Mandatory Credit: Allen J.Schaben/ The Los Angeles Times

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Lamayor.org report: “Mayor Garcetti Underscores Urgency of Earthquake Preparedness

for Angelenos, Emphasizes Importance of Citywide Resilience”, 10/18/2018