Ten Worst Tragedies or Catastrophes to Occur in California

The most catastrophic or tragic events in modern California history.
The Top Ten
1 The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

On April 18, 1906 at 5:12 am, the Bay Area was struck by a very shallow (5 mi deep) 7.9 quake that shook for about one minute. The exact location of the epicenter is still debated. The quake was felt from Oregon to Los Angeles. The quake caused massive fires throughout San Francisco and the surrounding areas that lasted several days. Downtown Santa Rosa was completely leveled and 80% of the city of San Francisco was completely destroyed. As many as 3,000 people were killed and around 300,000 out of a population of about 400,000 were left homeless. It has the highest death toll of all California natural disasters.

2 L.A. Riots

At the end of the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas something similar to this event happens and also the game is set in 1992.

April 29 - May 4, 1992. Also known as the Rodney King Riots.

The buildup: After years of claims of police discrimination, abuse, corruption, racism and brutality from the L.A.P.D., the citizens of the nation was introduced to proof to the claims. On March 3, 1991 Rodney King along with two passengers sped off after a Highway Patrolman attempted a traffic stop on their vehicle. After fleeing from the C.H.P. along the freeway then surface streets, Rodney King came to a stop in a residential neighborhood. The Highway Patrol placed all three under arrest and had the two passengers cuffed and in the patrol car when five L.A.P.D., who were called in for back up during the chase, told the C.H.P. that they were taking tactical command of the situation. They then holstered their firearms then preceded to swarm and beat King who was the last one out of the car. They circled King tasering him numerous times, kicked and punched, and clobbered him repeatedly with their batons (33 times) ...more

3 The 1994 Northridge Earthquake

January 17, 1994 at 4:30 am, a previously unknown fault, now named the Pico Thrust Fault, unleashed a 6.7 earthquake at a depth of 11 mi (18 km). The ground shook for around 20 seconds. The main shock was followed by two 6.0 aftershocks one of which collapsed a freeway transition overpass while a motorcycle cop was on it. The cop rode off and fell over 40ft to his death. This quake killed 61 people, injured over 8,700, and caused up to $44 billion in damages. There were many building collapses. An entire apartment complex collapsed in Northridge killing 16. Anaheim stadium's scoreboard fell onto the seats. The quake was felt as far as Las Vegas. Due to the early time of the quake and it happening on a federal holiday (Dr. Martin Luther King Day) a lot of lives were probably spared. The quake also caused an outbreak of Valley Fever due to airborne fungus spores being inhaled. Over 200 cases were reported with 3 resulting in death.

Even though I've been through bigger quakes ...more

HOLY S***! I was in LA that EXACT same year! (I was a toddler) I went about a few months afterwards. I guess I was considered one of the lucky ones who weren't there at the time of the quake...

4 The Tubbs Fire

October 8, 2017 - October 31, 2017. The most destructive wildfire ever in California. It was named The Tubbs Fire because of the street the fire was started on, Tubbs Lane. The fire scorched parts of Napa, Sonoma and Lake counties with the city of Santa Rosa being the most affected. The Tubbs Fire was one of fourteen large wildfires that broke out in Northern California during that October. Eight different counties were simultaneously burning by the combination of these fires which were dubbed "The Northern California Firestorm". The Tubbs Fire alone burned a total of 36,807 acres, destroyed 5,643 structures, took 43 lives and injured 1. Total cost of the damages - $1.2 billion. It is still unknown how the fire started.

5 The 1989 "World Series Earthquake"

On October 17, 1989 at 5:04 pm, a 6.9 earthquake struck the Bay area. The quake was about 12 mi (19 km) deep and was centered about 10mi northeast of Santa Cruz on a section of the San Andreas Fault. The shaking lasted around 10 - 15 seconds. The quake caused 63 deaths, injured 3,757 and caused $6 billion in damages. About 1.4 million people had no power for a little over two days. Some more interesting notes about the quake;
Because game 3 of the World Series was being televised live from San Francisco's Candlestick Park, this was the first earthquake to ever be broadcasted live across the nation.

The World Series that year was a "freeway series" between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's. Many theorize that the death count would be a lot higher if the World Series wasn't on at the time. That's because the quake happened during rush-hour and traffic on the streets and freeways were a lot emptier then normal due to people getting off work early and/or rushing home ...more

6 PSA Flight 182

September 25, 1978 at 9:01 am, a PSA flight 182 was approaching San Diego International Airport for landing it collided with a Cessna killing all 137 people between the two planes. An additional 7 people were killed on the ground as the planes came crashing down 3 miles from the airport in the suburban neighborhood of North Park. It is the deadliest plane crash in California history. NBC news in San Diego actually caught on film the Cessna in a nose dive spin before impacting the ground and the fireball explosion on impact. A photographer caught two shots of Flight 182 after the collision. One with the plane in a dive with it's right wing damaged and on fire. And another with the plane more engulfed in flames moments before slamming into the neighborhood at 300mph.

7 The San Ysidro McDonald's Massacre

On July 18, 1984, a 41 year old psychopath named James Huberty kissed his wife goodbye and told her he was leaving to hunt humans. A short time later, at 3:56pm, he arrived at a McDonald's in the San Ysidro neighborhood of San Diego. He had a 9mm pistol, an Uzi, a 12 gauge shotgun and a bag full of ammo as he walked into the restaurant. He pointed the shotgun at a 16 year old employee and pulled the trigger but the gun misfired. The employee, named John Arnold, thought it was a joke and walked away while the assistant manager, 22 year old Neva Caine, walked towards the gunman. Huberty discharged his shotgun into the ceiling then pointed his Uzi at Caine shooting her once in the face killing her. He then shot Arnold with the shotgun in the chest wounding him. Huberty began screaming and cursing at the patrons. At that moment a 25 year old named Victor Rivera tried to plea with the gunman not to shot anybody else. Hubert shot Rivera 14 times while screaming "Shut up!" over and ...more

8 The Oakland Firestorm of 1991

October 19 - 20, 1991. Although a relatively small wildfire, burning only 1,520 acres (compared to California's largest wildfire, The Thomas Fire at 281,893 acres) it was the second most destructive wildfire in California. Killing at least 25, injuring over 150 and burning down 2,843 homes and 437 apartment and condominium units. The fire started as a small grass fire which the fire department responded to and put out...so they thought. After the firemen left the fire reignited and spread quickly due to the winds gusts that were at 65mph that day. The fire caused more than $1.5 billion in damages.

9 Watts Riots

August 11-16, 1965.

The buildup: Los Angeles county had restrictions that banned African and Mexican Americans from renting or buying houses from certain neighborhoods and areas around the county. In 1910 these "certain areas" was 80% of the county. By the 1940's, 95% of all housing in Southern California was off limits to African and Asian Americans. These "restrictions" severely limited educational and economical opportunities to the African American community. Another major contributor to the riots was the passing of Proposition 14 which overturned the The Rumford Fair Housing Act which was designed to fix racial residential segregation. Added to that was police brutality. In 1950, William H. Parker was sworn in as Los Angeles chief of police. He created a militarized police force. He recruited a lot of his officers from the south who had racist tendencies. This led to a lot of claims of police discrimination and brutality from the minority ...more

10 The 1986 Cerritos Mid Air Collision

On August 31, 1986 at 11:46am Aeromexico flight 498 (DC-9) was on approach to land at LAX when it was struck by a small private single engine plane (Piper PA 28-181 Archer). The small plane was owned by the Kramer family. Apparently the pilot of the Piper wasn't from the area but tried to use landmarks to navigate from Torrance, Ca. to Big Bear, Ca. The pilot got confused and wandered into LAX restricted airspace. While in restricted airspace the Piper collided with the incoming flight 498. The Piper's engine clipped the DC-9's left horizontal stabilizer which sheered off the cockpit of the small plane decapitating the pilot and both his passengers. The Piper fell to the ground and landed upright in a playground of an elementary school. Thankfully it was on a Sunday so there was no children there. As for flight 498, the collision tore off the planes vertical and horizontal stabilizer (tail section of the plane) sending the plane rolling over and into an inverted nosedive crashing nose ...more

The Contenders
11 Fire in Santa Rosa, CA 2017
12 The Camp Fire
13 2008 Universal Studios Fire
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