26 Years Ago Today, The January 17, 1994 Northridge Earthquake; But Was It Really a 6.7 Magnitude?


During the early morning hours of January 17, 1994 a magnitude-6.7 (?) earthquake struck Southern California in the city of Reseda within the San Fernando Valley.  Speculations that this earthquake may have been a focal point of political influence in the city of Los Angeles and was stronger than reported so read on for details.

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The Northridge Earthquake will never be forgotten to anyone who lived through it.  It was type of earthquake on a blind-thrust fault that displaced the land by over 30 feet.  It originated far below the San Fernando Valley in a fault that was not detected.  The detection of this fault was only seen when the aftershock pattern happened.  The fault itself never broke through the surface and it was buried deep down.  Imagine having a broken bone within the bone and no visible fracture at the surface.  That is how the fault was and thus a reason it is called a blind fault.  The fault is a thrust, which means instead of the land sliding passed one another like the San Andreas, the land was sliding up and down so the motion of this pushing up violently caused the widespread damage seen during the quake.

Two 6.0 Mw  aftershocks followed, the first about one minute after the initial event and the second approximately 11 hours later, the strongest of several thousand aftershocks in all.  The death toll was 57, with more than 8,700 injured. In addition, property damage was estimated to be $13–50 billion (equivalent to $22–86 billion today), making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.

An unusual effect of the Northridge earthquake was an outbreak of coccidioidomycosis (Valley fever) in Ventura County. This respiratory disease is caused by inhaling airborne spores of the fungus. The 203 cases reported, of which three resulted in fatalities, constituted roughly 10 times the normal rate in the initial eight weeks. This was the first report of such an outbreak following an earthquake, and it is believed that the spores were carried in large clouds of dust created by seismically triggered landslides. Most of the cases occurred immediately downwind of the landslides.

One thing to note is the political effect of this Earthquake.  The city of Los Angeles’ insurance would not cover anything over a 7.0-magnitude.  Many people think the quake was stronger than a 6.7-magnitude and this may very well be correct.  I personally saw the seismograph drum of this Earthquake, the actual one from that day.  In measuring it I came up with a 7.1 to 7.4 and not a 6.7-magnitude.  It is entirely possible the city of Los Angeles forced a 6.7-magnitude to get the insurance … but we will never know for sure.  One thing is for certain, it wasn’t a 6.7-magnitude and it takes a scientist to see that on the drum, not an attorney.  So while the quake will be documented as a 6.7-magnitude, it may very well have been over a 7.0.

As for the California Fault Stress Model, the model is showing (embedded in article image) we are maintaining a slightly elevated signal with a small peak a couple days ago.  It isn’t a major signal so I do not expect strong quake activity yet, unless that peak wants to put a 4.0 out in CA/NV or Northern Baja, Mexico.

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