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Transportation Crippled, Badly Damaged Firms Forced to Close

January 18, 1994|Patrick Lee | Times Staff Writer

The earthquake sent shock waves through Southern California's business community Monday, crippling transportation and communications, damaging factories and idling thousand of workers.

Companies in the San Fernando Valley were hit hardest by the magnitude 6.6 quake, with many firms forced to close because of damage or lack of phones and electricity. Some of the hardest hit:

* Rockwell International Corp.'s Rocketdyne division in Canoga Park, where the firm assembles rocket and space shuttle engines, was shut down after the plant suffered broken water pipes, shattered windows and buckled floor tiles.

Lockheed Corp., with 5,000 Los Angeles-area employees, said it would keep its Burbank "Skunk Works" plant closed today because of water and other damage. Hughes Aircraft Co. plants in Canoga Park and Malibu also remain closed, affecting about 2,000 employees.

* Oil giant Atlantic Richfield Co. reported that one of its Four Corners oil pipelines ruptured in at least four places in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys and near Pyramid Lake in the Grapevine.

Arco and several other oil companies shut down their oil pipelines as a precautionary measure while inspecting for leaks. Oil companies were also assessing damage to service stations near the epicenter, many of which were damaged and not expected to be open for a while.

* The 20th Century Insurance headquarters building in Woodland Hills was closed Monday after the earthquake left the 11-story building looking like a bomb had exploded inside. Roughly 100 panes of glass were blown out, beige drapes hung out the windows like unmade bedsheets and the phones, elevators and electricity were out. Phone calls by worried policy holders were being forwarded to 20th Century's emergency center in Monrovia, plus seven other offices.

* The quake caused undetermined damage to Great Western Bank's sprawling 12-building headquarters complex in Chatsworth, home to some 3,000 employees.

Beyond the Valley, the effects of the quake were widespread, mitigated only because many firms were closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Other businesses--including grocery stores--stayed open despite damage and lack of electricity to meet the needs of rattled homeowners.

A city-wide dusk-to-dawn curfew was sure to put a crimp in the commerce at bars, restaurants and stores dependent on evening traffic, many still struggling with the region's persistent recession.

Power to the entire city of Los Angeles was interrupted by the quake, with electricity being restored only gradually during the course of the day, the Department of Water and Power reported. Several large companies used emergency generators.

The Pacific Stock Exchange opened on time Monday morning. On the trading floor, activity was subdued amid the clutter of paper and beneath the green crawl of stock quotes.

The DWP also reported that a main water trunk line ruptured in Northridge, lowering water pressure in the San Fernando Valley and depriving some areas of water entirely.

Outside the city, Southern California Edison Co. reported that industrial, commercial and other customers went without power mainly in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties and in the Northern San Fernando Valley.

Pacific Bell reported that all switches--the building-sized equipment that connects telephone calls--were operating and processing calls.

GTE California, meanwhile, said its network was damaged, with several switching offices operating on backup generators due to the loss of power.

The quake also disrupted vital transportation links to businesses. Los Angeles International Airport was closed for several hours after the quake. American Airlines and others diverted or canceled inbound and outbound flights.

The collapse and closure of portions of the Santa Monica freeway, the nation's busiest, and the Golden State freeway, the state's major north-south conduit, have left many trucking companies scrambling for alternate routes.

Trucking companies said the quake had a heavy impact on pick-ups and deliveries in Southern California Monday, but most said they expected to be able to reroute deliveries around freeway blockages in the next several days to prevent any serious shortages of goods.

Gary Frantz, spokesman for a major interstate hauler, Consolidated Freightways, said freight terminals were operating at about 50% of capacity in Pasadena and Los Angeles, mainly because many employees were not able to get to work.

Meanwhile, Michael Martin, spokesman for Santa Fe Pacific Railways, which operates the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific tracks in Southern California, said trains were halted for up to five hours after the quake while track was inspected. Damage was minimal.

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