Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Sept. 13, 1955: City Hall, a short block away, is a dim specter behind the Stephen M. White statue on the Hall of Records lawn during the peak of the city's dense smog attack. This photo was published in the Sept. 14, 1955, Los Angeles Times. The statue is now in San Pedro.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John Malmin / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Sept. 13, 1955: Chemist John G. Cherry tracks ozone concentrations during the height of the smog attack. This photo was published in the Sept. 14, 1955, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Sept. 13, 1955: Downtown buildings are barely visible at 11 a.m., from 1st and Olive Streets at the peak of heavy smog. Faintly visible from left are the Hall of Records, law building, new county law library and state building, with City Hall in background. This photo was published in the Sept. 14, 1955, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: John Malmin / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Sep. 9, 2014: Los Angeles City Hall from upper section of Grand Park roughly same distance from previous photo taken on Sep. 13, 1955 at Olive and 1st Streets.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

Sept. 13, 1955: An unidentified LAPD officer wipes his watery eyes in front of City Hall during heavy smog in Los Angeles.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Sept. 13, 1955: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors convenes an emergency meeting as record smog envelopes the region. This photo was published in the Sept. 14, 1955, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Sept. 14, 1955: Motorcycle messenger Frank Stone wears a gas mask while making deliveries during smog attack. This photo was published on Page 1 of the Sept. 15, 1955, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Sept. 14, 1955: Ed Hidalgo, a Department of Water and Power worker, stuck his head out of a manhole on West 8th Street, smelled the smog, and beat a retreat, saying he preferred working underground. This photo was published in the Sept. 15, 1955, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

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1955 L.A. smog siege

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1955 L.A. smog siege

Sept. 13, 1955: Hot weather and a low inversion layer leads to the highest recorded ozone level in Los Angeles history.

A story in the Sept. 14, 1955, Los Angeles Times reported:

The densest smog on record grayed Los Angeles for hours yesterday, threatening closure of industry and curtailment of traffic as ozone concentrations came within a shade of reaching the second alert stage for the first time.

Another smog assault was forecast for today by the Air Pollution Control District. The prediction was based on a Weather Bureau forecast of another 1000-foot inversion that probably will not lift.

The APCD said there will be moderate eye irritation in the central area between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and heavy irritation in the foothill districts between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The APCD evaluation staff said another first stage alert probably will be called today and urged that householders postpone all backyard burning or other smog-producing activity until the inversion lifts.

As residents dabbed at their watering eyes yesterday, officialdom’s leaders, admittedly alarmed, waived political differences.

Gov. Knight, called in Sacramento, placed the California Disaster Committee on an alert stand-by basis.

Mayor Poulson ordered Chief of Police Parker to cooperate in enforcing Air Pollution Control District emergency regulations and for the initial time, Los Angeles Police Department officers were directed to halt residents from burning combustible waste or from operating backyard incinerators. …

APCD inspectors in radio cars stood by each oil refinery, ready for the calling of a second alert stage and orders to close down the oil industry’s plants.

The City Hall’s emergency clinic treated five persons for severe eye irritation.

Trucking associations complied with an APCD request to curtail activities as much as possible. And the city’s fleet of trucks was withdrawn from the streets by Mayor Poulson’s order.

A first alert stage was called by the APCD at 10:23, when the ozone reading was .56 in downtown and .50 in Vernon.

It was to last for three hours and nine minutes, until 1:32 p.m., when ozone concentrations had fallen well below the one-half part per million parts of air at which first stage alerts are arbitrarily called.

But in between those hours the readings hit .85 in downtown Los Angeles and .90 in Vernon. Had the Vernon reading ascended a mere .10 higher, a second alert stage would have been ordered.

This second alert stage is defined as “air contamination level at which a dangerous health menace exists.”

And according to the plan for this amount of air pollution, the APCD may limit operation of vehicles and close down refineries or any other operation deemed a major smog contributor. …

The record downtown peak of .85 hung on for more than 19 minutes, from 11:18 a.m. to 11:37 a.m., when the reading fell off to .80.

Similarly the all-time high of .90 in Vernon lasted from 11:46 a.m. to 12:16 p.m., a matter of 30 minutes. …

The peak reading for Sept. 14, 1955, was .64 part per million.

On Sept. 15, 1955, the temperature cooled to 84 and smog was dissipated by brisk winds. But, as reported in the Sept. 16, 1955, Los Angeles Times, the City Council passed a temporary 60-day ordinance restricting all backyard burning to Saturdays and Sundays only, between the hours of 6 a.m. and noon.

Backyard burning was completely banned in 1958.

In 1955, stage one alerts were called for 0.5 part per million of ozone. A stage two alert was 1 ppm and a stage three at 1.5 ppm. In 1973-74 the system was changed. Stage one alerts are now called for .2 ppm, stage two at .35 ppm and stage three at 0.5 ppm.

The above photo gallery consists of images taken on Sept. 13 and 14, 1955.

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