Whittier Narrows Earthquake

The 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake struck the southern San Gabriel Valley and surrounding communities of southern California at 7:42 a.m. (PDT) on October 1, 1987.

The magnitude 5.9 earthquake was originally assigned a magnitude of 6.0 but was revised a few days later when additional data became available. Its epicenter was in the town of Rosemead, California, at a depth of 9.5 km.

The earthquake was caused by slip on a blind thrust fault near the northern end of the Whittier Fault, part of the Elsinore Fault Zone, on a previously unknown fault structure. There was no surface rupture. It has been proposed that the event occurred on an extension of the recently recognized Puente Hills thrust system.

This earthquake occurred on a previously unknown, concealed thrust fault approximately 20 km east of downtown Los Angeles, California. It resulted in eight fatalities and $358 million in property damage. Severe damage was confined mainly to communities east of Los Angeles and near the epicenter. No severe structural damage to high-rise structures in downtown Los Angeles was reported.

The most severe damage occurred in the "Uptown" district of Whittier, the old downtown section of Alhambra, and in the "Old Town" section of Pasadena. These areas had high concentrations of unreinforced masonry buildings. Residences that sustained damage usually were constructed of masonry, were not fully anchored to foundations, or were houses built over garages with large door openings. Many chimneys collapsed and in some cases, fell through roofs. Wood frame residences sustained relatively little damage.

A strong aftershock of the October 1 Whittier earthquake killed one person, injured several, and caused additional property damage in Alhambra, Los Angeles, Pico Rivera, and Whittier. Several chimneys twisted, fell, or broke at the roofline; stone fences cracked and toppled; windows broke; and large cracks formed in sidewalks and highways. The press reported that one of the two bell towers collapsed on the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium. Also felt in Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties.

The Oct. 1, 1987 Whittier Narrows Earthquake killed eight people and displaced 9,000. About 10,000 structures were damaged and destroyed.

The price tag came to $358 million.

But the statistics don't tell the entire story. The time, effort and money locals expended to recover are often not mentioned.

Long after the magnitude-5.9 earthquake and its aftershocks rumbled through the Southland, residents and businesses were left to deal with the aftermath.