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It Happened This Week in L.A. History: Northridge Shook, Rattled, and Rolled
At 4:31 a.m. on January 17 1994, a 6.7 magnitude earthquake strikes Reseda, California, just over 20 miles northeast of downtown.
Overpasses collapsed, fires broke out, and thousands of buildings were damaged during and in the aftermath of the 20-second shake endured by some 10 million people across the L.A. area. Though modest in magnitude, the Northridge earthquake, named after its epicenter, became one of the most destructive in U.S. history because of its densely populated, urban target. The initial shake was felt as far east as Las Vegas.
Two 6.0 aftershocks followed that same day, but the effects of the 6.7 quake lingered. In the eight weeks following the earthquake a major outbreak of Valley Fever, a respiratory infection contracted by inhaling fungal spores from dust clouds, spread throughout Southern California. Studios suspended filming at damaged buildings, and an unusually large number of suicides was reported.
In total, the Northridge quake claimed 60 lives and was responsible for $20 billion dollars in damages. One bright spot: The building and safety codes implemented after the 1971 San Fernando earthquake spared Southern California from experiencing a higher number of casualties. All of the buildings constructed after the new safety codes remained intact.