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Saturday, 18 January 2014

Looking back to the devastating Northridge Earthquake – Remarks from Neighbors at Sparr Heights in Glendale

Twenty years ago on January 17 at 4:31in the morning, Los Angeles was jolted awake by the devastating Northridge Earthquake. The motion was felt as far as Las Vegas, Nevada, about two hundred miles away.  Our home in Glendale which was about 16 miles away from the epicenter, didn't get any damage, because it was sitting on a granite bedrock, however the motion was too strong. 

We thought the best thing was to go out and sit in the car. So my husband, our kids, (19-15-9) went outside and sat in the car.  I'm not sure if we had cell phones at that time but I remember that we put calls to our parents who lived in Glendale. Maybe we called them from home.  I asked my kids and they didn't remember much.  One thing that I remember it well, it was the aftershocks.  Within the next few weeks there were many aftershocks and we had become experts in telling each after shock how strong was in Richter Scale.

A week later on January 23rd, we had a wedding reception at Knollwood Country Club – just a few miles away from the epicenter.  The wedding resumed, but I remember that we had to take surface streets, because the freeways were damaged. It was like going to a sightseeing. On the way we were taking pictures of buildings that had collapsed.  At the wedding there were numerous aftershocks and the huge chandelier was shaking on an on. 

The earthquake caused property damage estimated about $20 billion, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history. 

Hear what neighbors at Sparr Heights (Glendale) remember:

Tarik Trad9:40am Jan 17
It's January 17, 2014. at 4:31 a.m. 20 years ago today, the earth shook in Northridge. A few months prior, I had a conversation with a neighbor near Montrose (with a similarly-built house from the 1920s) about bolting our homes to the foundation. For $3,000, I decided it was too expensive. My neighbor decided to "earthquake-proof" his home, only to find the quake - centered some 15 miles away - had torn his home practically in half. Our home, with the exception of some minor cosmetic cracks, did not suffer any structural damage. Thank God!

My LATimes office in Chatsworth was practically flattened, with big, heavy computer monitors and printers tossed across the room like they were pillows.

Anne Beachey-Kemp

I was 2 months pregnant with my first child and my husband was halfway around the world at a conference in New Zealand. We had moved to Sparr Heights only the year before. I remember the noise woke me up first, but then the bed started to shake and I held on for dear life thinking it would never stop. I finally (probably only 15 seconds later) got to the inside hallway and sat there shivering listening to my emergency radio. I couldn't reach my husband for over 12 hours and of course he was freaking out because all of the pictures on the news were showing the collapsed freeways and buildings and fires. At the time, I worked at a company in Sherman Oaks that had no structural damage but was a complete mess inside--computers, books and papers everywhere. It took a long time to clean up and even longer for everyone's nerves to settle. One guy I knew lived in the apartment building in Northridge that collapsed and killed several people but he managed to make it out ok. He was traumatized for a long time after, but never moved out of the area like many others did. I will never forget how weird it was to venture out to work a few days afterwards and see firsthand just how much damage had been done, especially since the only thing that happened at my house was that a couple of things fell off the shelves and broke.
Vanessa Ynda
Vanessa 12:25pm Jan 17
I was living in NY and so worried for my family. Mother in Downey fine, no damage but my sister in Simi had her house move 2 inches to the North. Luckily, they had purchased an earthquake policy one month prior and had her windows, chimney and carpet etc, replaced. She was lucky. So many were not.
Katie Emery
Katie 12:06pm Jan 1
This is what I posted: Twenty years ago today, I woke up to the sound of what seemed to be a freight train hitting our newlywed bungalow in Pasadena - my first earthquake! My husband dragged me to a doorway and we stood there for what seemed like 10 minutes while our whole house shook and glass broke all around us. I was so scared that I could hardly stand up and cried so hard that my tears seemed to shoot horizontally out of my eyes and hit Jon in the chest. Forgot all about our pug puppy - the one that we seriously planned to "take a bullet for" (!) if he ever got attacked. We found him standing on our bed, even more petrified than we were. He forgot his house training for a week!

Luckily, we had little damage. Others weren't so lucky. I'll never forget the poor young mother in the news who was so terrified that something had happened to her new baby (who was fine), that she dropped dead of a heart attack :-(. I still think about her.
Leslie Fechter
Leslie 12:01pm Jan 17
Our new black lab spent her 1st night with us the night of the EQ. She ended up going between the bed and nightstand in fear. I grabbed the kids and all of us plus our elderly neighbor spent the rest of the night in the hallway.

Geoff Mousseau
Geoff 2:30pm Jan 17
I was living on the 19th floor of a building downtown with floor to ceiling windows. The building swayed several feet to each side. We crouched on the floor and tried to hold on. We could see transformers exploding from our view over the city. From the noise and the swaying of the building we were sure it was going to collapse. Then ... it stopped. We lost almost everything we had, but we were unhurt

Tom B
I was working in a "business complex" on the Northridge / Chatsworth border, living in Van Nuys just east of the 405, while my mom was here in Sparr Heights. There wasn't much damage on the home front - a lot of clutter (more than usual) at my place, same thing at my mom's house, plus a few new cracks in the walls and driveway, and the glass cover on the overhead light fixture in "my" old bedroom fell to the floor and shattered. I just stayed in bed until the shaking stopped, and like most folks, I suppose, I was naturally a little jittery for a while afterwards, but I also "survived" the '71 quake here, and was a lot more freaked out after that one.

The work situation was obviously much different and much more severe. The building I worked in (on the second floor) was built around a center atrium, into which all of the surrounding walls collapsed. Because I worked in a department "non-essential to daily operations," I and most of my co-workers got a four-week paid vacation while the engineers did their thing (building surveys, shoring up the walls, etc.). By contrast, I seem to recall that we only got about a week off from Rosemont JHS after the Sylmar quake. I had worked late the previous Friday due to the holiday weekend and accidentally left my wallet in my desk drawer (locked fortunately), so I drove *very* carefully (the few times I did so) during my hiatus. I had no ID and no ATM card, so getting some cash was also a fun "adventure" (for which I will spare everyone the gory details).

They finally called us all back in to help with the clean-up, which included retrieving all of our personal and work belongings from our barely habitable cubicles. Based on the initial photographs they took in the days immediately following the quake, some of the buildings looked a bit like London after the blitz. Many of them had interior offices built with old style ten-foot modular walls, and those basically fell like dominoes; combine that with caved in ceilings and broken windows, and there was debris everywhere. It took days to salvage or trash everything in the worst hit buildings, and then THREE years to finish the necessary retrofitting, repairs, and reconfiguration (during which time we all worked first on tables in multiple "bullpens," then in temporary cubicles, and had to "migrate" between buildings and floors a half dozen times before returning to "permanent" quarters). Not to mention the damage to the freeways and nearby mall, which also seemed to take forever to repair and added another layer of headaches to "daily work life."

All of that was/is trivial, of course, compared to the unthinkably tragic loss of life and property suffered by so many people in the San Fernando Valley. In particular, I'll never forget the images and stories of the devastation at "Northridge Meadows." I've always kept those real victims in mind to blunt any tendencies toward unwelcome "woe is me" moments.

Mark McNelis
Mark 9:57pm Jan 17
I was living in Valencia at the time. I just remember feeling like a giant had picked up my condo and was shaking it! The noise was unbelievable! When the shaking stopped and I got out of bed - the floor was piled with everything from my bedroom. Fortunately, I was unhurt, Made it outside and spent the next several hours waiting out aftershocks. The carports were bent sideways. At daylight went back inside and everything was thrown all over the place. Could not reach my family to tell I was ok. It took a few years before the jitters went away.
Cecy Pinal
Cecy 9:55pm Jan 17
I was living in L.A. when I felt the earthquake. I jumped over my husband, who was sleeping closer to the bedroom door than I was, before he even new there was an earthquake. We stood under the door threshold until it stopped. He usually gets up around 5 am to go to work so he got up and went to work early. I was left at home scared. I didn't have to be at work until 8 am. So when he left I went two blocks down to my parents house to make sure they were ok and to be with others in case of another after shock. As I was getting ready to leave I was listening to the news on the radio. As I listened the announcer on the radio started saying he was feeling a strong after shock. Which I was not. A few seconds later I felt the after shock he was talking about. I thought the few second warning that the earth quake was coming was a worse feeling than just being surprised. After visiting with my parents I went to work. No one was there except for a few people. I eventually found out my boss had called our homes to tell us not to come to work. I unfortunately had left before I got the call. I left work soon after. That was the worst earthquake I have ever felt before. Not looking forward to the next big one.
Diane Lee Crosthwaite
Diane 9:13pm Jan 17
I was living in Palmdale at that time, having been a valley girl prior to that, and we felt it pretty darn good out there. With my family still in the valley, I never felt so isolated than I did during the first few hours after the quake, unable to reach anyone to see if they were okay. 6 months later we bought a house for SO cheap in Northridge!! LOL no damage at all, it was only a few blocks from the major damage and CSUN. We got a great deal, and I was so happy to be living so close to my family again. I've lived here in Sparr since 2001 in the house my Dad grew up in, and have never been happier!

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