The San Fernando Crisis

Reported by Dario Rock

1971 San Fernando Earthquake Interview

“ It was a horrifying experience that I would never want to relive.” My grandmother, Maria Elena Castano said about the San Fernando 1971 earthquake in California. The magnitude was 6.5 to 6.7 on February 9. At the time, she had three children, 4 year old Orlando, 2 year old Chela, and 1 month old Marcela who is my mother. The only thing she cared about was keeping them safe.


It was 6:01 in the morning when it was still dark and cold. Everyone in the house was sleeping. It was as quiet as it could be when a jolt shook the house to its very core. Maria Elena woke up and saw vases and picture frames falling to the ground and her bed was moving all around the room but all she could think about was the whereabouts of her children. She rushed to Marcela’s crib and held her. Then she ran to Chela’s bedroom and carried her also. She yelled out for Orlando and he ran straight to her. Orlando grabbed onto her shirt and since they had no idea how to prepare for something like this they ran outside. Maria Elena noticed that all of her neighbors were also outside. Fortunately, after viewing all the damage, nobody was injured.


In the epicenter though, there were landslides, hundreds of houses fell down and some buildings fell to the ground. In total, there was sixty-four fatalities and many more were injured. The damage in total cost was $553 million dollars. This was the first extreme earthquake in the San Fernando area. After this disaster, the people in the San Fernando area were told how to prepare and what to do if an earthquake like this happens again.


Maria Elena knows what to do now if something like this happens again. She says that you should find something sturdy to hide or duck under for safety. Don’t go outside until it is safe to do so. Maria Elena says you should have tools you need to survive for example, water, a flashlight, food, and an emergency kit. She has also learned to stay calm in emergency situations should something like this ever happen again.