Thirty years ago, the deadly Whittier Narrows earthquake jolted Southern California at 7:42 a.m. on Oct. 1, marking the Los Angeles area's most destructive earthquake in nearly two decades.
The magnitude-5.9 earthquake occurred as many residents were driving to work or dropping students off at school. Eight people were killed and property damage estimates neared $360 million in the region's most damaging quake since the 1971 San Fernando earthquake, also known as the Sylmar quake. Most of the damage was reported near the epicenter in the Whittier area and San Gabriel Valley communities, especially those with a high number of un-reinforced masonry buildings, living areas above garages and structures not fully anchored to foundations.
Hundreds of chimneys collapsed, and some fell through roofs. Whittier High School sustained significant damage and closed for about one week. About 15 miles to the northwest, high-rise buildings swayed in downtown Los Angeles, but there were no reports of significant damage.
Shaking, which lasted for about 20 seconds, was felt as far away as Nevada, San Diego and California's Central Coast. A magnitude-5.2 aftershock three days later was one of several jolts to the region in the wake of the main seismic event.
Out of the destruction came a better understanding of Southern California's earthquake faults. It was located on a previously unknown, concealed thrust fault east of downtown Los Angeles, giving seismologists something else to consider when mapping out earthquake-prone areas and gauging the potential for destruction. Although not as famous as California's San Andreas fault, the Puente Hills fault system is considered one of the highest-risk faults in the country, primarily due to its location under a densely populated area.
Below, these USGS images show some of the damage that resulted from the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake.
This report was originally broadcast on NBC4 in Oct. 1, 1987, a day after the Whittier Narrows earthquake.