Saturday, October 17, 2009

Loma Prieta

October 17, 1989 there was a Richter magnitude 7.0 earthquake on the San Andreas Fault. I was a college student in Claremont, CA (Southern California) but happened to be up here for fall break. I was washing some clam shells for a schoolteacher when the quake started, about a half mile from where I live today. I'd felt a number of quakes, and the initial shock at our distance was moderate (probably just the faster moving but less intense p waves) so I kept washing. No big deal right. Probably just a minor event on the local Hayward quake.

Then the s waves hit and I realized this wasn't that at all and sprinted into the dining room and dove under the heavy table, ripping my knees up pretty thoroughly. Everybody else was already under there, wondering where the heck I was.

Power went out and stayed that way for quite a while. We had a bit of news from the radio and a bit from talking to people on the phone who were further away, but the initial news reports were pathetic. They said the whole bay bridge had collapsed (not true, one segment did go down though and people relied on ferries and the subway for a while.) and that bodies were in the water (not true, although somebody did die there).

We had a lasagna in the oven that wasn't quite done and finished it up on the propane grill in the back yard.

Remarkably few people died - mostly in the cypress structure, which pancaked. When I was at the airport in the morning, waiting to see if the runway was OK so I could fly home for classes we ended up chatting with somebody who had been through there just moments before. They eventually declared enough of the runway OK to fly out (about 1/3 of the runway was badly damaged at OAK) and we were off.

Two years after I was again in the bay area for fall break and the Oakland firestorm happened. I was really starting to wonder about the bay area by then...


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