a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Loma Prieta Earthquake -- has it really been 30 years?

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Loma Prieta Earthquake -- has it really been 30 years?

SUMMARY: Some things you never forget.
Backfill: First posted on Facebook Oct 17, 2019; edited here & added links.
I meant this to be short, but apparently I still have things to say about it.

30 years ago--seems like yesterday in some ways, the images of my life that day are so brilliant--  Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing if they felt it (and people felt it as far away as San Diego, which is about 450 miles from epicenter)... except a weird thing is happening: Adults I know, some of whom have children, have no memories because they weren't even alive! 30 years!

30 years ago in just about an hour from now, our part of the world shook into a different dimension, in which everything around us was affected, people died, buildings collapsed, fires erupted, power went out, people couldn't get home for hours, phone lines were so swamped with people trying to call other people that you couldn't even get a dial tone. Power was out on gas stations, too, for at least a couple of days, so finding a functional station was challenging, and those stations had long lines.

Part of the Oakland /Bay Bridge collapsed, closing THE main artery between the east bay and San Francisco for months, affecting traffic everywhere. Today, that bridge carries a quarter of a million cars daily. Probably less then, but not by a huge amount.

The Cypress Structure--a section of freeway not far from the Bay Bridge sporting one set of freeway lanes atop others--pancaked and caused most of the earthquake's deaths. The famous As vs Giants World Series baseball game that was just starting you've probably heard about, as the stadium swayed and shook and the announcers excitedly reported on it. Power out there, too, and they weren't sure whether the structure was sturdy, so they eventually evacuated everyone. (Not to mention that everyone wanted to get home to check on family and abode.)

Communication of any kind was nearly impossible: Power out (so many phones didn't work  unless the handset was wired to the phone that was wired to the wall), phone lines impassible... and remember: No cell phones! No World Wide Web!  (Internet existed but only an elite few knew how to use it.)

Enough freeway bridges collapsed that, for months, if you were in traffic and near a bridge, you wouldn't stop under it, so there were always huge gaps in front of people (read: EVERYONE) who didn't want to get caught there. Months!

I posted more on the 20th anniversary about my experiences, with my photos; start there for more links and posts on my blog if you wish.

Following are other links for your viewing ... pleasure?

KTVU/Fox News

Good  three-minute video from 2016. Worth sharing again.

I should note, however, that the news coverage at the time all looked and sounded sensational like this. In fact, very few fires, very few buildings or bridges collapsed. Lots of small damage, but it's the big stuff like this that kept playing over and over and made many of us think that SF was being destroyed all over again, that the Bay Bridge had completely collapsed, that there were fires everywhere, and worse.  It was terrible, but not that much in most places.

NBC Bay Area video

A one-hour version, summary of events.

FULL EPISODE: Loma Prieta Earthquake, 30 Years Later (NBC Bay Area)

KGO TV video

One-hour video, watch it in pretty much real time as if you were actually there.

I just watched about 30 minutes of it. Talk about reliving the trauma!

While you're watching, imagine the ground repeatedly rolling and shaking, and things in your house fallen over or broken (and maybe your house, too), oh, and no power, so you're not really watching it in realtime: you're hearing it on your battery-powered radio while sitting in your safe driveway to keep out of the rocking and rolling house.

10-17-1989 San Francisco Earthquake - First Minutes (KGO TV)

It’s interesting to see how far off they were with the epicenter (first guesses Hollister, which is miles away from the actual under Loma Prieta peak near Santa Cruz) and the estimate of the strength of the quake (first estimate from places that estimate these things: 6.5. Actually: 6.9).

According to this useful calculator: The difference between these two magnitudes is 0.4
A magnitude 6.9 earthquake is 2.511 times bigger than a magnitude 6.5 earthquake, but it is 3.981 times stronger (energy release).

Hollister (first guess epicenter), Forest of Nicene Marks (actual epicenter), Los Gatos (where I was working at the time of the quake), Campbell (where I lived, but close to the border of Los Gatos), and Watsonville, where some of the worst damage occurred because of soil structure and many old buildings. Santa Cruz also lost many old buildings, many of them in the heart of downtown, ripping their hearts apart, too.

Other stuff

Final note

Looking back, now, I wish I had taken more photos of everything: The room I was in when the quake hit, the lines at the gas stations, the gaps where people wouldn't stop under overpasses, me and mother-in-law and dogs sitting in the driveway with the radio; Sheba in a panic for days until the aftershocks abated...   I drove around looking for *damage* but didn't think about lifestyle images.

Let that be a lesson to me!  

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