It was in the early morning of February 9, 1971, that the San Fernando earthquake erupted in the San Gabriel Mountains foothills in Southern California. The earthquake, also known as the Sylmar Earthquake, was an unanticipated thrust quake that shook California. It had a magnitude of about 6.5 to 6.7 and the intensity of the quake was said to be Mercalli Intensity of XI, which is considered to be an extreme one. It was one of the kind earthquakes that caused havoc to the northern San Fernando Valley and the neighboring areas.
The impact of the Sylmar earthquake was that it created a San Fernando fault zone that falls between the San Gabriel Mountains and San Fernando Valley. The result of the tectonic ruptures in the faulty zone meant that several properties were damaged due to the quake. The surface faulting extended up to 15 kilometers and the lateral offset was measured at 1-meter maximum. The total surface damage of this earthquake was found to be about 12 miles or 19 kilometers long. The maximum slip that happened due to this Sylmar earthquake was up to 6 feet or 2 meters.
The urban settings along this area were totally damaged with city streets and neighborhoods bearing the brunt of the earthquake. The businesses and the private homes in the vicinity of the epicenter had to face severe damages. The major damaged seen was at the Olive View and the Veterans Administration Hospitals. The freeway overpasses also collapsed due to the earthquake. The earthquake resistant buildings built at the Oliver View Hospital also were not spared and four, five story buildings were pulled down from the main hospital building during the earthquake. The lives of 49 people were accounted for in the Veterans Administration Hospital in San Fernando. This was mainly due to the collapse of the old building at the venue. Most of the older buildings in Beverly Hills, Glendale, Alhambra and Burbank were not able to bear the brunt of the severe earthquake and collapsed.
The Sylmar Earthquake was a severe one as it caused over $500 million of damage to property and land. It also accounted for the lives of 65 people. This day was a sad day in the history of California that frequently has to carry the brunt of Nature’s fury. The other main damage was to the newly constructed freeway. Many of the experts feel that the damage caused by the severe Sylmar earthquake was more or less similar to the 1994 Northridge Earthquake that shook California altogether. It was only because the earthquake happened very early in the morning that there were not many losses of life.