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The 70th Anniversary of the 1952 Kern County Earthquake | News

The 70th Anniversary of the 1952 Kern County Earthquake |  News


Kern County – Seventy years ago this week, on July 21, 1952 at about 4:52 a.m.: A 7.3-magnitude earthquake shook the southern San Joaquin Valley, killing 12 people, injuring hundreds more and causing an estimated $60 million. in harm. The earthquake occurred at White Wolf Fall near the community of Wheeler Ridge and was the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in California since the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. The 1952 earthquakes were the first well seen within Kern County; Distant events in the region were previously felt. Kern County is bounded on the western side by the Templore mountain range adjacent to the Southern San Andreas Fault; Other large events affected the area such as the Fort Tejon earthquake of 1857 which severely affected Fort Tejon. Fort Tejon is located about 15 miles south of Wheeler Ridge.

The Tehachapi community suffered the most damage and loss of life from the earthquake: although other sites in Kern County were also significantly damaged and the effects were widely felt throughout Central and Southern California. The main shock had a series of major aftershocks that lasted in July and August of that year with several events measuring 5+ with intensity from moderate to very strong. Six of these aftershocks occurred on the day of the main event, but the strongest aftershock came on August 22 with a magnitude of 5.8 which was so intense that it killed two people and caused an additional $10 million in property damage.

The epicenter was at a 56-mile-wide fault in the southwest end at a point that may terminate or merge with the east-west direction of the Plito thrust fault. Seismologists recently proposed the hypothesis that the earthquake is an exceptional example of induced seismicity resulting from the extraction of oil from the Wheeler Ridge oil field: production from the field began 98 days before the earthquake about 62 miles from the White Wolf Fault. According to this hypothesis, oil extraction does not contribute to the earthquake energy, but it did change the fault conditions allowing the release of the accumulated stress.

Tehachapi suffered the most damage, with 11 people killed and 35 injured. Early estimates by the Los Angeles Times put the damage at $2.6 million with more than 700 families affected and most of the city’s buildings damaged: 15 homes destroyed, 53 homes damaged Severe damage and 75 other homes slightly damaged. And in Bakersfield, windows were shattered, plaster dislodged and many commercial and residential areas were littered, and the county jail was damaged. The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Santa Fe Railroad reported that two tunnels collapsed between Tehachapi and Marcel. Six other tunnels received less damage and 3.5 miles of track was distorted by a horseshoe curve. In Maricopa, the Court of Justice Building, the Maricopa Hotel, the Post Office, and several businesses were convicted of serious damages; At Taft, the disturbance was mild except for a destroyed wall in JC Penney’s store and one house damaged. An oil refinery in the former settlement of Paloma caught fire and an explosion occurred at a refinery in Long Beach due to a cracked pipe; Most of the greater Los Angeles area was free of major damage due to the distance between the epicenter and Los Angeles, although some windows were broken in Long Beach and power was cut off in Van Nuys and Los Angeles.

Caltech seismologists have recorded nearly 188 aftershocks above magnitude 4.0 as of late September, including 6.3 aftershocks, 5.1 aftershocks, 5.2 aftershocks, and 5.8 aftershocks with damaged buildings in Irvine and minor damage to buildings in Fresno. Two aftershocks that occurred within an hour of each other on July 25 were felt throughout central California causing pipeline damage south of Bakersfield and other minor damage at several other locations; Pre-existing landslides improved in Tejon Canyon and landslides occurred in Caliente Creek Canyon, Oiler Canyon Grade, and State Route 178 between Kernville and Bakersfield. The aftershock on July 29 caused many fires and severely damaged buildings already damaged by the first earthquake. Brick buildings in Bakersfield sustained the most damage during the 5.8-magnitude aftershock of August 22. Although a few buildings collapsed, 90 of the 264 buildings damaged needed to be completely demolished.

The American Red Cross described it as a major disaster, but relief delivery to the area was hampered by landslides that closed hill roads between Los Angeles and Kern County; California State Route 99 was also closed due to a landslide ten miles south of Gorman, but the highway quickly reopened later in the day. All 417 inmates at Tehachapi Women’s Prison were evacuated due to earthquake damage and according to the California Department of Corrections, the facility was left unusable; Most of the injured received treatment at Kern County General Hospital, and some sought treatment at Tehachapi Valley Hospital. The railway was reopened 25 days after the first earthquake by a 1,000-man construction force and 175 pieces of earth-moving equipment which included 7 track gangs, 9 bridge construction gangs, and personnel/equipment from Morrison Knudsen; 4 lanes were quickly repaired and two more lanes were illuminated in daylight by removing excess loads to subsequently turn them into pieces, one of which was partially lit by daylight; 1,250,000 cubic yards of packed dirt was laid to build a 4,358-foot temporary alignment around the eighth tunnel while permanent repairs were in progress.

In Bakersfield, the downtown area was severely damaged and many buildings were demolished to make way for buildings that were eventually constructed with new architectural styles; After World War II and with a booming economy, the area experienced a period of urban renewal. Kern County Courthouse, St. Francis Church, and the original Bell Memorial Clock Tower were damaged and either flattened or rebuilt. After the most devastating earthquakes nowadays, teams of investigators from institutions such as the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute are sent to the damaged area to prepare tools to capture robust motion records and study damage and other effects of events. A 1954 report by Steinberg and Moran detailing the effects of the 1952 earthquake and the aftershocks set a model for how modern earthquake survey reports should be written; The robust motion record obtained from the events of 1952 as well as the accelerometer from the 1940 El Centro earthquake were the most widely used data set until the 1971 San Fernando earthquake.




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