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The Jan. 17, 1994 Northridge Earthquake Remembered By Santa Clarita

PHOTOS/VIDEOS COURTESY OF LEON WORDEN | SCVHISTORY.COM

One thing is for certain, Jan. 17, 1994, changed everything.


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Not just here at KHTS AM-1220, which was KBET at the time -- throughout the Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys.

By 4:31 a.m. that day, thousands were left with damaged homes, no water or power and otherwise, obviously shaken.

The station was thrust into crisis mode and became a flurry of around-the-clock activity.A photo of the destruction from the Northridge earthquake on Jan. 17, 1994

While the region became a disaster zone after the Northridge Earthquake, and countless lives were altered with effects that some say lingered today, many also described it as a galvanizing moment for the city.

As part of our look back, we asked for your photos and stories, and we received them.

We heard from residents and officials, both describing the disaster as something that, while tragic, in some respects was also a turning point for the city.

“The world changed out here in Santa Clarita,” said Ray Kutylo, who was working as a district duty officer at the Red Cross at the time.

When he contacted the Los Angeles office right after the shaking stopped, he found out that meant he’d be running the local shelter.

After the earthquake hit, Kutylo, like thousands of others, said he turned to AM-1220 for information on what was happening.

He worked long hours, alongside city and county employees and volunteers, to help get SCV residents back on their feet.

What stood out most, Kutylo said, was how residents came together with the realization that, as he put it, “Life goes on.”

“On one of my few tours around,” Kutylo said, “they were delivering a baby in a tent right there on Valencia Boulevard. It wasn’t ‘crisis mode,’ it was, ‘hey, life goes on. Stuff happens, and people are coming together.’”

There were also valuable lessons learned, he said, which gave new import to the Santa Clarita Valley Disaster Coalition headed by KHTS owner Carl Goldman.

KHTS radio personality Barry McKeever became a de facto minister of information, working tirelessly to get the word out on resources.

We’ll be sharing your stories here throughout the day, which, hopefully, will serve as part catharsis and part recognition of many who gave selflessly to help cobble the ruined homes, damaged infrastructure and changed lives.

But also, as many have pointed out, so we don’t forget the lessons we learned that day about the importance of being prepared for a disaster, and how a community can come together for its fellow man.

Here's a few words from Santa Clarita Valley residents who shared their Northridge Earthquake experiences with us

Santa Clarita resident Jason Allen was delivering newspapers at the time the earthquake struck:

"I was living in the Santa Clarita Valley at that time, and I was actually delivering newspapers. ... I had a Newhall route that started on Valley and went back into wildwood canyon and ended I think at Dewolf or Fourl. It was about a 17-mile route with all the back streets. I don't miss it much...

"Anyways, I ended up finishing the route since I was just at the beginning and I figured the streets might be a little chaotic crossing Lyons. I also was able to talk to a lot of the people I delivered to, as most were coming outside of their homes.

"There were a few injuries, a lady on either Peachland or Highspring had fallen and cut her leg on the glass coffee table. I remember when I did finally drive home I stopped by Pizza Hut on Lyons (I also worked a couple days a week as a delivery driver back then) to see the damage.

"The Store Manager Russel was there surveying the damage. There was a hole that had opened up in front of Tempo records. After getting home, (further up Lyons), I went back later in the day and a delivery truck had falling in that hole, probably looking at all the broken windows and damage from the earthquake."

Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar:

"It did galvanize the city. ... I'm going to give a lot of accolades to the city. This is certainly prior to my being on the City Council or, for that matter, the Planning Commission, which I was on in 1997.

"The people certainly came together, and the city proved to be such an important aspect in bringing this community together, and providing the emergency services that were so desparately needed. The city did a phenomenal job, and I can't help but acknowledge our Mayor (George Pederson). He stille lives here in the Valencia area, and we could not have had a better man in command at that time.

"Having said that... I think it does galvanize the people, and it was a little bit of a wake-up call to, who's in charge, and that would be Mother Nature, of course, but yet we worked together, and we tried to do all we can to support one another, and make the corrections asa we need to make them, and move forward." 

Saugus resident Raj Jawa:

Jawa was living in Saugus, off of Tamarack at the time of the earthquake.

"No real significant damage -- some minor, but wide cracks; a bottle of Ragu fell from the cupboard. I remember everyone on the block gathered together through the night. My family slept in the back of the Jeep in our driveway for at least a few days after."

Santa Clarita resident Terry Prather:

"My husband worked at the Van Nuys station of the Los Angeles Police Department. Everyone was on emergency call, 12-14 hour days because there was no freeway. My company in Woodland hills closed because the walls caved in. The building had to be propped up. We were all temporarily transferred to Agoura Hills."

Santa Clarita Valley resident Lori Rivas writes:

"Wow. 20 years, huh? I still walk through houses and stores, imagining what would fall, and where I would seek safety."

Saugus Union School District governing board member Judy Umeck:

"I was awake and my daughter slept through it," said Umeck, who added that she immediately went to check on her daughter, but ended up bruised from a nasty spill, after the force of the earthquake took her off her feet. 

"I would say the best thing that came out of it was the cohesiveness of our neighborhood. We talked to neighbors we had never talked to before. We all pulled out our barbecues out to the cul-de-sac. ... 

Umeck said her family was prepared. "I had a father who was real big into flashlights," she said jokingly.


Do you have a news tip? Call us at (661) 298-1220, or drop us a line at community@hometownstation.com.


The Jan. 17, 1994 Northridge Earthquake Remembered By Santa Clarita


Article: The Jan. 17, 1994 Northridge Earthquake Remembered By Santa Clarita
Source: Santa Clarita News
Author: Perry Smith