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Historical Disasters

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While disasters in this area are uncommon, they do occur. Santa Cruz, and the surrounding area, have experienced and recovered from a number of disasters in the past. Below is a listing of the largest disasters to occur in Santa Cruz and the surrounding area in the last 125 years.

January & February 2017 (Storm Damage)
Severe storm damage. Over $10 million in damage to the City of Santa Cruz from flooding and mudslides, causing road and water system damage. 

March 15-27, 2011 (Storm Damage)
Severe storm damage. Santa Cruz County was among 19 counties proclaimed by the Governor to be in a state of emergency due to storms between March 15 and 27. U Dock Santa Cruz Harbor

March 11, 2011 Japanese Earthquake (Tsunami)
9.0-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan generated a massive tsunami that tore across the Pacific causing approximately $20 million in damage to the Santa Cruz Harbor. Santa Cruz Sentinel Tsunami article.

August 12, 2009 Lockheed Fire (Wildland Fire)
7,819 acres consumed, 13 structures were destroyed, cost $26 million. More than 2,400 residents were evacuated from the rural communities of Bonny Doon, Davenport and Swanton.

2009 Loma Fire (Wildland Fire)
485 acres consumed Trabing Fire 2008

June 20, 2008 Trabing Fire (Wildland Fire)
630 acres consumed, 26 homes and 49 outbuildings destroyed, 2,000 people were evacuated. Highway 1 was closed in both directions for a short period of time. 

June 11, 2008 Martin Fire (Wildland Fire)
520 acres consumed, 1,700 people were evacuated, 11 homes destroyed.

May 28, 2008 Summit Fire (Wildland Fire)
4,270 acres consumed, approximately 1,400 homes were evacuated. 

April 2006 (Flooding)
Severe storms and flooding. Santa Cruz was one of several counties to be declared a disaster area. FEMA Disaster 1646*

February 1998 (Flooding)
Santa Cruz was one of a number of counties declared disaster areas due to El Niño.

February 1995 (Flooding)
Santa Cruz was one of 57 counties declared disaster areas due to flooding.

1990 Meder Canyon Fire (Wildland Fire)
Several acres consumed in 20 minutes

collapsed building after Loma Prieta earthquakeOctober 17, 1989 (Loma Prieta Earthquake, Richter Magnitude: 7.1)
Two people died in Santa Cruz as a direct result of this earthquake. In the greater San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area, there were sixty-two fatalities. The earthquake epicenter was located approximately 10 miles east of the City center. The earthquake destroyed much of the historic downtown and many areas of the City were very badly damaged. Roads in and out of the City were impassable and many residents lost power and water for up to a week. More on the Loma Prieta earthquake.

January 1982 (Flooding)
The water rose to within two feet of the top of the levees along the San Lorenzo River and flooding occurred both north and south of the freeway along Carbonera and Branciforte Creeks in the Twin Creeks and Brookside Glen developments. This approximately 30-year event also reached the top of the concrete portion of Branciforte Creek at Market Street and overflowed. The older part of the Soquel Avenue bridge, built in 1923 collapsed. Santa Cruz Sentinel article about the flooding.

December 22, 1955 (Christmas Floods)
Highest historic flood in the area, filling 410 acres of lowlands outside the river channel including the downtown. Ninety percent of the damage in the county occurred within the City of Santa Cruz and cost the City millions of dollars.  More information on this flooding from the Santa Cruz Public Library

1952 Polio (Pandemic) Row boat by fire station 1

February 9, 1941 (Flooding)
This was the third flood to hit in four years. Flood control becomes a focus for the community.

February 27, 1940 (Flooding)
Very severe flooding.

October 1926 (Earthquake, Richter Magnitude: 6.1)
Two large earthquakes occurred during this year. Three of the aftershocks cracked plaster in Santa Cruz, almost bringing down the chimneys of numerous buildings. It broke plate glass windows along Pacific Avenue. The city water main broke at Laguna Creek and articles fell from shelves at stores.

1918 Spanish Flu (Pandemic)

March 27, 1907 (Flooding)
This flood had water levels higher than previous floods. Flood control discussion increased.

April 18, 1906 (Earthquake, Richter Magnitude: 8.3)
No recorded deaths in Santa Cruz but the courthouse was almost destroyed; about 1/3 of the chimneys within the city were destroyed or damaged; there were major landsliding with gaping cracks in the earth especially along the water; bridges were destroyed; and the water supply was shut off by broken mains and pipes.

April 14, 1894 (Fire)
Fire destroyed most of downtown Santa Cruz unchecked. Earlier in the day a water gate at the reservoir had broken and water had been shut off for most of downtown Santa Cruz to be able to complete the repairs.  For more on this fire visit the Santa Cruz Public Library.