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Reflecting on the 30th Anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake: Did you feel it?

CALIFORNIA ( — Thirty years ago today, residents of Southern California were abruptly shaken from their sleep as a magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake struck in the darkness of the night, catching people unaware and unprepared.

On January 17, 1994, at 4:31 a.m., the ground shook violently for 10-20 seconds, and lives were forever changed by the temblor, that killed at least 57 people and injured over 9,000 others.

The transportation infrastructure was heavily affected, with numerous freeway collapses and damages. Notably, the collapse of a section of the Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10) garnered significant attention.

damage from the northridge earthquake

A total of seven major freeway bridges in the area collapsed, and 212 were damaged, disrupting traffic in the Ventura-Los Angeles region for weeks following the earthquake.

Communication, water, and power distribution systems were affected and several fires started due to burst pipes and gas leaks.

The earthquake caused widespread damage across a large area of Southern California, affecting communities in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange counties. Some 125,000 people were made at least temporarily homeless.

The Northridge earthquake was the costliest natural disaster to have occurred in the United States at the time, and is today the third largest economic loss caused by a natural disaster in the nation’s history.

The damage cost estimate reached $20 billion in damages and $49 billion in economic loss.

An overpass collapsed onto the freeway at the Newhall Pass, which connected I-5 to SR-14
(An overpass collapsed onto the freeway at the Newhall Pass, which connected I-5 to SR-14– Photo: USGS)

The Northridge earthquake became a catalyst for change. It prompted a reevaluation of seismic safety standards and led to extensive efforts to retrofit buildings and infrastructure. The lessons learned from that fateful day continue to shape policies and practices aimed at enhancing earthquake preparedness.

Did You Feel It?

If you experienced the Northridge earthquake, it was likely a traumatizing event. You probably talked to friends and family about it, but one thing you didn‘t do at the time was submit a USGS ”Did you feel it?” report. That’s because the “Did you feel it?” reporting system wasn’t created until 1999. On this thirtieth anniversary of the Northridge earthquake, the USGS is inviting people who felt it, to share their story – in English, Spanish, or Chinese.

We are also interested in hearing your story, so be sure to comment below and share!

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