Earthquakes have been a way of life for those of us living in Southern California. Most of them are small, barely getting our attention.
Some news sources last month stated that an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude along the Newport-Inglewood fault could see the Seal Beach wetlands plummet by three feet. Geologists from Cal State Fullerton and the U.S. Geological Survey based that prediction on land changes after sizable earthquakes in the last 2,000 years and, most recently as a result of a sizeable earthquake 500 years ago.
Inasmuch as the last major earthquake in Long Beach was in 1933 when more than 115 people died and before stricter construction requirements were in place, I’m guessing my ashes will be firmly settled by the time another “big one” hits.
I was working for Transamerica Financial Corporation in Los Angeles on Feb. 9, 1971 when the San Fernando Valley earthquake caused $500 million in damage, with 58 deaths and hundreds injured. The pool in our Anaheim Road apartment building sent waves of water onto the deck, but not much else.
I drove to work that morning and found the elevators to my 19th floor office were closed as a safety precaution. As editor of the company newsletter, I walked up all 19 floors to retrieve my camera and record some of the damage when the three Occidental Towers banged into each other.
Without the elevators arriving employees were told to go home. Driving down the Harbor Freeway that morning I witnessed a black man jump onto the freeway from one of the bridges, apparently unable to deal with the trauma of the earth shaking beneath his feet. Several of us stopped to render aid and call the authorities. His jump was a short one that – lucky for him – only caused a few broken bones and a chance to re-think his suicidal actions.
A few years later we bought our first (and current) home in Park Estates. Forty-three years later the house has withstood the occasional temblors. Only the concrete surfaces show any sign of movement, but most of that relates to exposure to the heat of the day and cooling at night.
If and when “the big one” hits I’ve always imagined that the Belmont Shore, Naples and Los Cerritos Wetlands would be hardest hit. So there is some small comfort in knowing that the “Pill Hill” residents (so named for the number of doctors who live here) will be spared the kind of destruction seen in the San Francisco Marina District that was devastated by liquefaction in 1989.
When you consider the possibility of beach front homes going below sea level, hard-to-find parking spaces and unrealistic home prices, those of us living further inland can derive peace of mind while living in our home sweet homes.