1994 Northridge Earthquake – My Experience


The following is a guest post by my friend Miki who had first-hand experience with the devastating 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Northridge Earthquake

4:30am – January 17, 1994, Northridge, California – I was awoken suddenly by what seemed like someone picking up my bed and dropping it.  I shut my eyes and tried to shake the sleep from my brain with thoughts that I must be having a nightmare.  When I opened my eyes again, panic set in as I realized the shaking was a REALLY bad earthquake.  When the shaking finally stopped, my fiancé and I jumped up, grabbed our clothes and scrambled in different directions. I fumbled around in the dark looking for my purse and car keys just thinking we had to get out of there quickly. At the same time, my fiancé stood in one of the doorways of our apartment. I looked at him incredulously and asked what he was doing.  I told him that we needed to get out of our apartment.  He told me we were not supposed to go outside because of the possibility of downed electrical power lines and that we should stand in the door frame.  He is from the East Coast of the United States and had never experienced an earthquake before.  I told him he was crazy because the roof was going collapse and that this was no ordinary earthquake.  Unlike him, I had grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area and had been there for the 1989 earthquake in which the Bay Bridge fell.  I knew this earthquake felt far worse than that one because we had been tossed about like rag-dolls.  In the middle of our argument, we saw lights flashing in our windows.  It was our apartment manager.  He shouted for everybody to get out and to put on our shoes because many of the glass windows had broken.

Northridge Earthquake - Collapsed building

All of the tenants from our apartment complex met in our back uncovered parking lot trying to get over our shock.  Out of 30 residences, only ONE couple had a disaster kit with them.  They had flashlights, blankets, a first aid kit, extra jackets, water, what looked like army food and a radio with emergency lights.  We all huddled around their radio to hear the news of what had just happened.  We learned that we had just experienced a 6.7 magnitude earthquake, on an undiscovered fault line and we were sitting in the middle of the epicenter!  The aftershocks (which at times felt as strong as the original earthquake) continued all day long.  As soon as sunlight broke and the heat started to rise (as it does in San Fernando Valley) a few of us drove to the gas station to get some bottled water.  We were shocked by what we saw.  The line to get gas extended far down the street and the shelves of food and water were completely bare in the gas station.  In a panic, everyone had rushed to buy up all of the supplies that were available in every store/gas station that was open.  As we drove back to our apartment we saw tents pitched in a local high school’s athletic field and the traffic signals dead.  The destruction to buildings seemed very erratic as it must followed the path of the fault line.  Everyone in our apartment complex slept in the back parking lot that night and some even stayed out there even longer afraid of another earthquake occurring.

Empty Shelves After Earthquake

The damage from the Northridge earthquake was extensive.  My school at the time, Cal State University Northridge suffered damage throughout the entire campus with the multi-level parking structure falling as well as a nearby University apartment complex in which many people died.

I will never forget that day and how UNPREPARED we were!  We were lucky, but from that day forward I made sure we had an earthquake kit prepared for such emergencies.  You never think something like that is going to happen to you, until it does.

Northridge Earthquke - Collapsed Building

Special thanks to Miki for sharing her incredible story and showing that it’s always a good time to buy supplies so you don’t end up helpless when you need it the most. Since it was an undiscovered fault line, buildings probably weren’t made to withstand such powerful earthquakes.

Luckily Miki got through it all but had she been prepared there wouldn’t be the panic of scrambling, only to find out all the store shelves are empty and you’re left with nothing. Just think about it, how long do you think you will survive without food or water and what if you or a loved one gets injured? Make sure you are prepared both in your home and even in the car as this shows that an earthquake can strike at anytime no matter where you are.

Do you have a story to share? Comment below and let us know. There are way too many unprepared people so we need to let them know how important earthquake preparedness is.

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