Long Beach,
11:25 PM

What the Deadliest Quake in Southern California History Teaches Us

Long Beach State University professors share insights as the anniversary of the devastating 1933 Long Beach quake approaches on March 10

LONG BEACH, Calif. (March 6, 2018) – In the evening hours of March 10, 1933, the Long Beach area, which was in the middle of a dramatic population boom, was devastated by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake. Brick buildings crumbled, schools collapsed and houses bounced off their foundations. Many of the estimated 120 deaths occurred when people ran into the buckled streets and were hit by falling debris from unreinforced brick and masonry buildings. 

Long Beach State University  faculty and staff members can provide unique insight into how the 1933 quake significantly changed the course of the region. For example, within a month of the quake, California passed the Field Act, which mandated earthquake-resistant construction for K-12 schools.

These campus experts also can discuss the cutting-edge seismic reflection technology they are using off our coast that could help us understand how a temblor of a similar size today on the Inglewood-Newport fault might affect us. 

These faculty members include:

Robert Francis, a geological sciences professor whose current research includes the use of sonic imagery to look below the local sea floor at fault activity, can share knowledge and photos about the 1933 quake and its lessons for today:

There are still many pre-1933 buildings, and standing next to some of them in an earthquake is a bad idea.

Jayne Bormann, a geological sciences professor, uses seismic reflection to study fault lines beneath the Pacific Ocean floor. Bormann co-authored a study last year in which she and others discovered the Newport-Inglewood and Rose Canyon faults are actually one continuous fault system. This means an earthquake could keep coastal Los Angeles and Orange counties shaking for a longer time as it races down the longer fault line to San Diego County. She says technology will help residents better prepare for future quakes: 

Under the earthquake early warning system being developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, seismometers and GPS sensors will be used to detect the earthquake source and warn people in the path of shaking before the shaking begins. Even a few seconds would give people time to drop, cover and hold on. Surgeons could halt surgery. Fire stations could get their doors open. 

Lisa Star, a civil engineering and construction management professor, recently received a $90,000 grant from UCLA via the National Science Foundation to continue her research into soil-structure interaction:

What we have found from past earthquake data is that for some types of soil, if soil sits by itself, it does not liquefy. However, if it has a building on top of it, it will liquefy. I study what effect the building has on the likelihood that the soil will liquefy.


About the campus:
Long Beach State University is a teaching-intensive, research-driven university committed to providing highly valued undergraduate and graduate degrees critical for success in the globally minded 21st century. Annually ranked among the best universities in the West and among the best values in the entire nation, the university’s eight colleges serve more than 37,500 students. The campus values and is recognized for rich educational opportunities provided by excellent faculty and staff, exceptional degree programs, diversity of its student body, fiduciary and administrative responsibility and the positive contributions faculty, staff, students and more than 300,000 alumni make on society.