The 1971 San Fernando earthquake
(also known as Sylmar earthquake
) struck the San Fernando Valley
at 6:00:55 a.m. PST
on February 9, 1971, with a magnitude
end quote from wikipedia under the heading "1971 San Fernando Earthquake"
Since February 9th was a Tuesday, the night before I had gone to a Drive in Theater in Palm Springs to see the movie "Mash". Then I drove home about midnight or after to Yucca Valley. This particular Quake was the single most terrifying I have ever gone through in my life and I was raised in California where there are little quakes all the time. Even though I was almost 3 hours by car from the epicenter, first of all this quake woke me up first of all and it was dark out and cold (likely in the 20s) and then after waking me up the shaking began. I thought, "Oh. It's an earthquake. It'll just shake a little while like it always does." But then I rolled over and the bouncing got worse and worse and worse. And then I got scared because it just kept getting worse and not stopping. And as the fear washed over me I started wondering whether this was an earthquake or a nuke since the cold war was in full force worldwide at that point and had been since the late 1940s. So a nuclear hit on Los Angeles wasn't out of the question. And then, just when I thought I was going to die and was bouncing all over the room because I would have been injured in my bed and as pictures flew off the wall it stopped. I remember being so very grateful that it had stopped even though with an earthquake that bad I knew people had likely died at the epicenter. And they had.
Begin quote from same wikipedia article heading "1971 San Fernando Earthquake".
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 aftershock
sequence 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. 
Much confusion ensued as various agencies declared a need for the mandatory evacuation of 40,000 people,
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 Hospital
in Sylmar (which had opened just a month prior to the earthquake) and at the Veterans Administration Hospital
at 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. end quote.
I hope none of you ever have the experience of even for a few minutes thinking that that moment is the end of civilization on earth. I can't even express how awful it was to think for even a short time that the human race and civilization was over. Maybe it was how long the earthquake was. Maybe it was being woken up out of a dead sleep in the dark or maybe it was a combination of things. However, anyway you look at it I wouldn't wish that experience on any person on earth.
Last night I was up late and found the movie "MASH" that was made in 1970 and released in either December or January 1971 and remembered just how much I had enjoyed seeing that movie the night of February 8th 1971 in Palm Springs. I was 23.
Note: My ex-wife was married to her first husband then and both were in college in the San Fernando Valley. They woke up to all their library of college books coming down on top of them and injuring them, of glass flying around the room, of all the glass being blown out of their house, of almost everything glass in the house breaking, of powerlines falling outside and arcing and making a racket. So within a week or so they were still healing up by what had fallen on them during the quake and there were still issues with electricity and potable water even then as well as roads that could be driven on at all.
Where I was outside of trees falling down and some fences being broken and new cracks in foundations and roads. And as you traveled closer to the epicenter it was really a mess. I went with a Sierra Club Geology tour of the Hospitals that collapsed and saw firsthand the roads broken with three or more foot high breaks along roadbeds and walkways and buildings broken or thrown off their foundations entirely. It was very unsettling to see the epicenter up close. It was in some ways like a bomb hit over a ten or more square mile or bigger area if you saw the damage there within a month after it had occurred.