At 6:24 a.m. on June 29, an earthquake estimated as strong as 6.8 hit Santa Barbara, destroying 85 percent of the town’s commercial buildings in 18 seconds. The quake also caused liquefaction in the foothills underneath the Sheffield Dam, causing it to fail, releasing a 45-million-gallon torrent. This floodwave rushed seaward between Voluntario and Alisos streets, carrying trees, boulders, and urban debris. Fortunately, further damage was avoided when the local utility company shut off gas lines to prevent the eruption of major fires. Most damage occurred in the downtown area, with much of lower State Street being reduced to rubble.
Many Santa Barbara residents spent that summer sleeping outside, as aftershocks periodically rolled through, threatening unstable buildings. The quake caused $8 million in damages and claimed 13 lives, the last of which occurred exactly one year later, on June 29, 1926, when an aftershock caused a damaged chimney to collapse on a little boy.