On the 25th anniversary of the Northridge quake, Bay Area experiences rumbles

The aftermath of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake on 1-5. Photo: Dave Yoder/Orange County Register

The Northridge Earthquake in 1994 was a massive 6.7 magnitude quake that struck Southern California’s densely populated San Fernando Valley, destroying freeways and leaving much of the area without power for extended periods of time. The quake struck at 4:30 AM on January 17th, 1994 making yesterday the 25th anniversary of the disaster and incidentally on the anniversary, the San Francisco Bay Area experienced its second tremor in 2 days. As the LA Times reported, the latest tremblor struck at 6:11 a.m., with an epicenter less than a mile west of the western edge of the Caldecott Tunnel — about 2 miles southeast of the UC Berkeley campus and 4 miles northeast of downtown Oakland. An earlier quake, a magnitude 3.4, hit a day earlier at 4:42 a.m.

The East Bay is threatened by the Hayward fault, which has been called a “tectonic time bomb.” A landmark report by the USGS last year estimates that at least 800 people could be killed and 18,000 more injured in a hypothetical magnitude 7 earthquake on the Hayward fault centered below Oakland (the Northridge quake, on the other hand, occurred on a previously-undiscovered fault line). The Hayward fault runs through a very densely populated area and out of the region’s population of 7 million, 2 million people live on top of the fault which makes the prospect of a major quake particularly terrifying. The fault is one of California’s fastest moving, and on average produces a major earthquake about once every 150 to 160 years, give or take 70 or 80 years. The last major earthquake on the Hayward fault, a magnitude 6.8, had its 150th anniversary on Oct. 21.

Why This Matters: As the LA Times explained in another article, other than hospitals, state government has generally not set any mandatory rules for earthquake retrofits, and that has left it up to city and county governments to make decisions about seismic risks. In the Bay Area while the cities of Oakland, Berkeley and Fremont have required this retrofit, several others are still dragging their feet like Palo Alto which is home to much of the Silicon Valley tech industry and faces $2.4 billion in damages should a big quake strike. This is also the case in Southern California where cities are also ignoring warnings.

Go Deeper: If you live in Los Angeles, please download the ShakeAlertLA app which the city recently launched to warn residents about imminent earthquakes.

Up Next

Melting Russian Permafrost Threatens Buildings and Infrastructure

Melting Russian Permafrost Threatens Buildings and Infrastructure

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The earth is collapsing under Russia’s northeastern towns as global warming melts the permafrost beneath them. Permafrost occupies 65% of Russia’s landmass, making this massive thawing particularly destructive.    “There isn’t a single settlement in Russia’s Arctic where you wouldn’t find a destroyed or deformed building,” said Alexey Maslakov, […]

Continue Reading 280 words
New WWF Initiative Supports Black Land Ownership

New WWF Initiative Supports Black Land Ownership

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Heirs’ property is a type of land ownership whereby property is passed down without a will, and it’s one of the main reasons Black families in the US are losing their land. But the Mobile Basin Heirs’ Property Support Initiative announced yesterday could help families in Mississippi’s Mobile Bay […]

Continue Reading 435 words
Biden Reinstates Protections for Three National Monuments

Biden Reinstates Protections for Three National Monuments

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The White House announced Friday that President Biden will use his executive authority to restore protections for three national monuments drastically reduced during the Trump Administration. He will reestablish and increase the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, both of which are in Utah. The orders […]

Continue Reading 396 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.