40th Anniversary of 1971 San Fernando Valley Earthquake

9 02 2011

Freeway Overpass on Interstate 5

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the February 9, 1971 San Fernando Valley Earthquake in southern California where I grew up.  I was almost 11 years old at the time and the oldest of 5 daughters aged 10, 8, 6, 4 & 2. We lived on a quiet cul-de-sac at 16960 Del Rio Place, in Granada Hills, California. We were within walking distance to our grade school and our back yard backed up to Balboa Boulevard, a busy 4 lane that went through Granada Hills.

San Fernando Vallety Earthquake 1971

On this particular morning, my father had been traveling and his plane had flown in to LAX sometime during the wee hours of the morning.  He had driven under the overpass that collapsed on Interstate 5 just a couple of hours before the earthquake hit. He and my mother were asleep in their upstairs master bedroom on one end of our home, with their gas fireplace burning as it had been a little bit chilly that night.  When the earthquake hit about 6 am, my mother instinctively knew that it was an earthquake and ran to the other end of the house to gather up us girls.  My father thought that a plane had flown into our house!  It seems as though mother made it to our bedrooms even before the shaking stopped, but I am not sure she could have ran that fast!  We had been thrown from our beds and the dresser drawers had spilled out over our rooms, along with all of the little knick-knacks, toys and pictures that were on our walls and shelves….so it was a real mess upstairs.  My mom herded us all downstairs and outside.  I remember watching a chandelier with a very long chain swinging in a complete circle like crazy as we ran down the stairs.

California Quake 1971 Overpass Collapse

The kitchen was a complete disaster with all of the food from the pantry, shelves, refrigerator and everywhere now thrown to the floor along with broken dishes, drinking glasses and serving and bake ware mixed it.  It was quite a sight!  My mother lost a lot of her wedding gifts in this earthquake. We made it outside and there were sirens blasting and smoke billowing up from homes in our area due to fires from broken gas lines…I remember being so thankful that our home was not on fire!

Balboa Boulevard Fire

Our family had been planning to go away the coming weekend and for some reason we had packed our little overnight bags the night before the earthquake.  I consider this to be such a blessing to my young mother, as it would have been very hard to find clothes for all of us and get us packed to leave so quickly. The police were in our neighborhood making sure everyone was out of their homes and safe, and telling us to evacuate immediately. We loaded into our cars never dreaming that it would be over a week before we were allowed back in to the area.

Police Car

Our home’s chimney had pulled away from our house, and the top story had lifted and come back down at a slight angle so this affected many things like plumbing, heating & AC…and I remember the wallpaper on our two story open stairway being buckled all along the ceiling line.  I don’t remember much more than that about the house, because we left so soon and when us children got to come back, my parents had most all of the initial mess cleaned up.

Govenor Reagan

We drove out of our neighborhood without seeing any news so decided to drive north only to find that Saugus and Newhall had been hit very hard as well.  I remember being very quiet in our car, which is quite a feat considering that it was filled with 5 frightened little girls.  I remember my parents praying for us to get to safety and for God to guide them to the best place to go.  Of course this was well before cell phones, ATM’s for cash and many other conveniences that we are used to now.

We ended up making a very round-about long trip to my Great Aunt Wilma’s home in Orange County, California, where we stayed for about 2 weeks if I remember correctly.  My parents were able to return to the neighborhood about a week later to work on cleaning up all of the mess. Gov. Reagan declared the area a disaster within just a few hours of the earthquake.  My parents always had a lot of respect for Ronald Regan and I think that it originally came from the way he handled the crisis of the California Earthquake.

We ended up leaving our home because of extensive damage and moving to a little “Ranchette” in Canyon Country, CA after this, but I remember the frightening after-shocks and power outages that we had for months and months after the initial earthquake.

~So, are Kansas tornado’s or California earthquakes more frightening??? I think earthquakes, because unlike Kansas tornado’s, there is just no warning.

Click here to read more about the 1971 Earthquake.

February 9th never goes by without me remembering back to that chilly, early morning when our lives changed in one minute.  ~Vicki Adrian



6 responses

9 02 2011
Anne Armstrong

You are a natural at the blogging. Thanks for sharing!

9 02 2011
Vicki Adrian

Thank you! I heard your Roy’s BBQ ad on the radio today…Nice job! ~Vicki

14 02 2011
Eileen Sanchez

Very fascinating history! Didn’t realize that you had experienced that earthquake! I am glad you wrote that memory out complete with pictures.

15 02 2011
Vicki Adrian

Isn’t it amazing how our brain can recall every tiny detail of an event 40 years ago, but I can’t remember what I walked to the back room for??? Hahahaha!

13 03 2011

Wow! What a blessing that you all came out of it alive…and that your father was home. Crazy how you remember things…like the chandelier swinging on the long (70s style!) chain…amazing. Glad you all got out safe!

I agree with Anne…you are a natural at blogging…can’t wait to read more! 🙂

14 03 2011
Vicki Adrian

Thank you so much Trudy! Appreciate your confidence!

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