This Day In History: October 1

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An earthquake in Whittier, California, kills 6 people and injures 100 more on October 1, 1987. The quake was the largest to hit Southern California since 1971, but not nearly as damaging as the Northridge quake that would devastate parts of Los Angeles seven years later.

Whittier is a small town south of Los Angeles best known as President Richard Nixon’s hometown. At 7:42 a.m. on October 1, a 6.1-magnitude earthquake jolted Whittier and the surrounding area for a full 30 seconds, violently shaking people out of their beds and causing unsecured items to crash to the floors in homes throughout the region. Several fires were ignited when gas lines were severed by the earth’s movement. Falling debris killed six people and the earthquake caused the area’s major highways to be shut down. Despite the strong tremors, there were no major building collapses.

A long series of aftershocks rocked Southern California for days after the earthquake. Reluctant to return to their homes, hundreds of people camped out in public parks for several days. Meanwhile, hospitals were evacuated as a precaution. Some looting was reported during the chaos, but it was not a widespread problem.

It is estimated that the Whittier earthquake caused $100 million in damages.