Editor’s note: This post was updated to include the 1992 Landers earthquake.
Few places on earth are as vulnerable to the capricious whims of the planet’s seismic tantrums than the Golden State. Some California earthquakes – between 6.6 and 7.8 – are the most famous in the nation’s memory.
In 2019, a 7.1-magnitude quake hit near Ridgecrest, Calif. Thirty million people from Sacramento to Baja Mexico felt its 24 shocks and aftershocks over three terrifying days.
In 1994, a 6.7 earthquake hit near Northridge. Its peak G-force acceleration was the highest ever recorded with modern instrumentation in a North American city.
In 1992, a 7.3 earthquake struck near Landers. It was “the largest earthquake to strike the contiguous United States in 40 years,” according to the United States Geological Survey.
In 1989, a 6.9 earthquake hit Loma Prieta, Calif. It felled Bay Area freeway interchanges, interrupted a World Series and caused $10 billion in damage.
In 1971, a 6.6 earthquake hit Sylmar. Its epicenter was the Magic Mountain amusement park, rattling outward 300 miles along the southern California coast. It killed 65 and injured 2,000.
As devastating as those major California earthquakes were, they pale in comparison to two earlier in the 20th Century.
In 1906 a 7.8 quake hit San Francisco. Between the collapsed buildings and the ensuing fires, the ’06 earthquake killed 3,000 people and displaced nearly a quarter of a million.
And the 1952 earthquake, a 7.3-magnitude quake that hit Kern County, was the third largest earthquake in recorded California history. It devastated the small towns of Tehachapi, Calif., and Arvin, Calif. It was but a prelude, however.
Seismic activity shook chandeliers and nerves for 33 long days, culminating in what we remember today as the Bakersfield earthquake of Aug. 22, 1952.
Hear more about the 1952 Kern County earthquake and its aftermath during 17 News’ Robert Price’s special Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. on TV-17 and KGET.com.