The Loma Prieta Earthquake

October 17, 1989 at 5:04 p.m. local time I was at work in Buringame Ca. right next to the San Francisco Intl. Airport when it hit. Caused by a slip along the San Andreas Fault, the earthquake lasted approximately 15 seconds and measured 6.9 on the moment magnitude scale (surface-wave magnitude 7.1).The quake killed 63 people throughout northern California, injured 3,757 people and left some 8,000 to 12,000 people homeless.The earthquake occurred during the warm-up for the third game of the 1989 World Series, coincidentally featuring both of the Bay Area's Major League Baseball teams, the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants. This was the first major earthquake in America to be broadcast on live television. I grew up in the Bay Area and was used to quakes. This was the best ever! I was in the restroom when it hit. I was thrown against the wall and at first thought a co worker was playing tricks. I opened the door and realized they were all gone home, it was a slow day and I'd let them off early. Then the shaking resumed and it was fanfucingtastic! I know it sounds impossible, but it was like surfing, you take a stance, squat a bit, and use your arms for balance like a surfer. The ground visibly moved like the surface of a pond a rock has been thrown into rippling in waves. Telephone poles danced & bent like palm trees in a wind storm. Train tracks across the street rolled like waves hitting a beach. Everything was elastic in seemingly impossible ways, bending & stretching like Gumby without breaking! In retrospect it's amazing there wasn't more damage! Soon it was over, and I remember thinking "Come on aftershocks!' I left the shop and stopped at the nearby gas station to fill up. the attendant excitedly told me "The bridge fell into the bay!" and I remember thinking "Yeah, right! Dumb kid!". I went North towards S.F. to a Dr. appt. and at the hospital people were panicked. I tried the elevator button but it was dead, so I took the stairs. A burly security guard confronted me as he came down the stairs shouting "Get out, the building's coming down" and he escorted me outside.  "What a bunch of over excited wussies" I thought as I drove towards the San Mateo bridge to go home.  The approach to the bridge was bumper to bumper and whan I got to the bridge onramp a State Patrol officer asked me "Where do you think you're going?" I replied "Home, Hayward in the East Bay". He smirked and half mocking me said "Not this week you're not Buddy, the bridge is closed indefinitely". Well, at that point I began to accept that maybe the quake was worse than I'd accepted it to be. I went to a 7-11 store to buy necessities, toothbrush, deodorant, razor, beer, etc. The place was packed and the line for the the pay phone was ridiculous. Then I headed for a friend's house nearby and when power came back on hours later we saw the chaos & destruction on TV. The Cypress which collapsed killing many is a route I'd traveled regularly, thinking each time "I do NOT want to be here in a quake!" I never thought It would actually come down.  Growing up with quakes I'd become jaded but this was bad news. Death, destruction, chaos. Now I live almost on top of the New Madrid fault in Illinois which is overdue for a whopper quake. Let's go surfin' now!

zillaron zillaron
51-55, M
2 Responses Aug 7, 2009

Thanx 1blujay, It really was fun for me, for others it meant death & tragedy. Kind of like attending a concert and finding out later how many had OD'd at the same show I'd enjoyed so much.

Great Story. I remember this quake, I was watching it on the news from SoCal. I like your descriptions and first hand accounts. And your Enthusiasm!