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Natural Disasters

Natural disasters, as most of us know, are inevitable and can be very damaging. Los Angeles often experiences earthquakes, fires, and occasionally floods. In recent years, LA has experienced tsunami scares, tornados touching down, and major fires. Special Collections and Archives holds several collections that document various disasters occurring in and around the Los Angeles area within the past century.

In 1934, a terrible flood raged through the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, in the La Crescenta and Montrose areas. The Little Landers Historical Society has donated some dramatic photos of this flood to the Oviatt's Digital Library, including one of a partially buried automobile and another of three little boys sitting atop a large rock brought down out of the mountains onto a major thoroughfare.

In 1971, the Sylmar earthquake devastated parts of Los Angeles County. The epicenter was in Sylmar near the Olive View Hospital. This earthquake caused major damage to homes, buildings, and government property. The Duane L. Georgeson Papers and the San Fernando Earthquake Damage Photo Collection contain records and photographs which document the damage caused by the quake, the magnitude of which can be seen in several photographs. The Georgeson collection contains reports of damage to the Van Norman Dam and the dam's rebuilding process, including state government involvement. 

In addition to documentation of natural disasters, collections also contain some records about preparing for them. The Los Feliz Improvement Association Records includes emergency plans which demonstrate how effective a community can be when they pool their skills and resources to create a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan. This collection contains documentation about the Los Feliz community’s efforts to work with the Los Angeles Fire Department and, through training, learn how to conduct drills and prepare effectively.  On October 17th the State of California conducted the 2013 Great California ShakeOut to prepare for an earthquake which many people were involved, including California State University, Northridge.

Montrose Flood, 1934, a partially buried automobile, Little Landers Historical Society. San Fernando Valley History Digital Library.
Boys sitting on top of a boulder after the Montrose flood, 1934, Little Landers Historical Society. San Fernando Valley History Digital Library.
Los Angeles River flood aftermath in North Hollywood, 1938, Robert and Betty Holtby. San Fernando Valley History Digital Library.
San Fernando Valley Juvenile Hall, San Fernando Earthquake Damage Photo Collection, 1971.
Olive View Hospital, San Fernando Earthquake Damage Photo Collection, 1971.
Residential area in Sylmar, San Fernando Earthquake Damage Photo Collection, 1971.
Residential Area in the City of San Fernando, San Fernando Earthquake Damage Photo Collection, 1971.
Residential Area in Sylmar, San Fernando Earthquake Damage Photo Collection, 1971.
Estimated funding for the Van Norman Reservoir Complex repairs following the 1971 earthquake. Duane L. Georgeson Papers.
Front page of The Valley News and Valley Green Sheet, Tuesday, February 9, 1971. Los Feliz Improvement Association Records.
Preparing for Disaster, photo from the Los Feliz Observer. Los Feliz Improvement Association Records.
Earthquake Preparedness booklet. Los Feliz Improvement Association Records.

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