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20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: Silencio
Date: October 17, 2009 12:58PM
Hard to believe it's been twenty years since this happened. Did anyone else here experience it?

I was a sophomore at UC Santa Cruz in 1989. It was a hot, kind of humid day that day, the clouds formed a hazy, slate grey cover over the entire sky. I finished up in class and went back to my top-floor dorm room to take care of some things before grabbing some dinner and heading to the lounge to watch the World Series on TV. I picked up a game of Rescue Raiders on my Apple //e and actually didn't feel like I was in a big hurry to get to the dining hall and the game at 5:03 PM.

I felt a jolt and instinctively knew "earthquake." I remember very calmly setting my joystick down on the desk and walking to the door frame. My friend across the hall did the same, and then we realized how powerful this earthquake was! Felt like a freight train was barreling down the hallway! My friend yelled out "This is the big one!", and I responded along the lines of "This is *a* big one!" After the longest 15 seconds of my life, the shaking finally subsided and I bolted down five flights of stairs in record time.

The dorms were closed for some hours afterwards until some engineers could determine they were seismically sound. Our college was built in the mid-70s so it was able to ride through without damage. The dining hall served everyone dinner out in the meadow. I think we finally were allowed back in the dorms around 11pm. The power and phone service was restored some time earlier, so I walked back into my room to find over a dozen messages on my answering machine from concerned family members. The only significant casualty in the room was my roommate's lava lamp, which toppled over and broke.

With all the aftershocks spooking everyone out, we had a big camp-out in the meadow that night. Since classes were cancelled the rest of the week, I drove home to the peninsula the next day. I was never more nervous to drive Highway 92 over the San Andreas Fault...
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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: Seacrest
Date: October 17, 2009 02:59PM
I came after the fire.

That sounds strange, huh?

I am not Ryan Seacrest, and I do not approve this message.
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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: hal
Date: October 17, 2009 03:26PM
I was in sacramento at work leaning back in my chair and I was having a hard time keeping it steady. Then I realized it was an earthquake..,. then realized that most likely it was a big one in the bay area, called my sister's house in SF (she worked in oakland) and couldn't get through...

oh crap!

turned on the TV and there was talk of the bay bridge falling. At that time of day, (Friday afternoon a bit before 5pm) it was very likely that she was on her way home when the quake hit - going over the bridge of course.

Saw video that the bridge hadn't collapsed - just a section. PHEW... then I was a little red car drive right off the collapsed section - a little red car that looked like it could have been my sisters...

it was a pretty long day...
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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: wave rider
Date: October 17, 2009 03:49PM
I had pulled out of the Metro Center driving a Route 66 - Live Oak 35 foot transit bus with a fairly heavy load from Santa Cruz to Capitola Mall on 41st Avenue at 5PM. I had brought a transistor radio to hear what I could of the World Series even though reception was so so.

I had just crossed the San Lorenzo River on Water Street and pulled in to pick up a bunch of workers from the government center stop. I had finished picking everyone up but had not pulled out into traffic when the earthquake commenced. The whole bus started rocking and shaking, could I have an engine going out? Being used to UCSC student hijinks and knowing passengers could make the bus rock, I glanced in the rear view inner mirror to see a bunch of wide eyes... The shaking really increased in frequency, I knew this was an earthquake at this point. I was pretty sure I had bent the brake pedal and had made hand impressions on the steering wheel; I was making sure that bus would not go anywhere!

There was a stunned silence when the shaking stopped. I made a quick survey of my 40 or so passengers to make sure I had no injuries, thank goodness. There was no power, no dispatch radio, no traffic signals, and nobody to tell me what to do. As good bus drivers are want to do with a load of passengers needing to get home, I got the show on the road as best I could.

Drivers were acting sanely and treating signaled intersections as four way stops, courtesy was the rule. The road surfaces had buckled and warped in places so low speeds were a necessity. The further we went the more damage we saw even though our backs were to the major damage and fires downtown. Broken storefront windows, scores of fallen chimneys, some houses askew on their foundations.

At most major intersections, citizen heroes (as I called them) had parked their cars and taken the place of the traffic lights, manually directing traffic and keeping the flow moving so all could get home. Later, I would hear of many more stories of heroes digging the injured out of fallen buildings with their bare hands even in the face of frequent violent aftershocks. My feelings that I lived with a bunch of good folk was made fact that day and the days to follow.

I mostly dropped off passengers and only picked up a few by the time I reached the end of my route. There were many more passengers needing to get home from that transit center, so I loaded up and started taking people home. My radio could receive TV audio, so we were able to tune in a Salinas station since all local radio stations were down. Hearing the scope of the damage stunned us even more. I freelance my route on the way home, the bridge over the harbor was unsteady and needed inspection. I eventually got most folks close to home if not on their regular route.

By the time I got the bus downtown, the scene was utter chaos. Scores of people streaming to the ruins to help, I had to restrain myself and keep charge of my bus. A supervisor was on hand downtown, we agreed that I would do another route and when the bus was empty, I could swing by my place to check on damages since I lived not too far off route. On the return portion of the route with the bus empty, I parked in front of my house and worked my way inside. Some speakers down, couple of lamps, but not too bad. FOUND BOTH CATS, to my relief. Shut off the gas main.

Back downtown, with no more passengers to get home, my bus and I were sent back to the bus yard. County emergency services had placed a generator so we could pump diesel for fire engines and other emergency vehicles. There was one cord into the building to power the dispatcher's office and he had plugged in a TV. Several of us that were left watched for hours the video tape and reports from the Salinas station, it was only well after midnight when I remembered to call the folks and let them know I was OK.

The earthquake reshaped the Santa Cruz downtown, 60% of the buildings had fallen or needed demolishing. The last remaining lot was rebuilt in just the last year or so...

Silencio, I was probably your driver on a number of your Metro bus trips, I drove route 1 a lot.

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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: tuqqer
Date: October 17, 2009 03:52PM
I was working on Solano Avenue, Albany, as a Rolfer, couple miles north of Berkeley. I was on a break and had walked outside. Next thing I knew 4 or 5 autos were pulling over, thinking they'd gotten a flat (all of them pulled over at the same time, as if they were in sync). And then the road did this very LSD'ish wave all the way up the road (which is a good mile long). Only then did I realize it was an earthquake.

But still, up to that point, everyone thought it was just a normal shake there in the east bay. It wasn't until about 10 minutes later that the TV news crews showed that upper section of the Bay Bridge had fallen that we realized the severity of it.

M1 2020 Mac mini (16G 2T) Sonoma 14.x Dual 27" Dell S2722QC monitors M2 2022 13" MBAir (512G 16G)
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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: RAMd®d
Date: October 17, 2009 03:58PM
I was sitting at home watching TV.

As a CA native, I knew instantly it was a 'quake, but it didn't occur to me right away that this has been shaking "a while" now. Except for Japan, most of the most of the quakes I've felt were 3s or 4a, maaaybe even 5s long.

This one was about 10s, and half way through things really started to shake-- pictures on the walls, a couple stacks of CDs toppled, and there was rattling of stuff coming from everywhere in the room.

Just before the shaking stopped, the TV station went off the air. Only getting OTA broadcasts, none of the local stations were on the air.

It was the first time since I was kid that a quake unnerved me.

I am that Masked Man.

All you can do, is all you can do.

There’s trouble — it's time to play the sound of my people.

Your boos mean nothing to me, I've seen what you cheer for.

Insisting on your rights without acknowledging your responsibilities isn’t freedom, it’s adolescence.

I've been to the edge of the map, and there be monsters.

We are a government of laws, not men.

Everybody counts or nobody counts.

When a good man is hurt,
all who would be called good
must suffer with him.

You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.

There is no safety for honest men except
by believing all possible evil of evil men.

We don’t do focus groups. They just ensure that you don’t offend anyone, and produce bland inoffensive products. —Sir Jonathan Ive

An armed society is a polite society.
And hope is a lousy defense.

You make me pull, I'll put you down.

I *love* SIGs. It's Glocks I hate.
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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: August West
Date: October 17, 2009 04:10PM
I watched thousands of people walk up Market from downtown. Wasn't seriously worried until the smoke from the marina came over the hill. Talk of the Bay Bridge and Cypress were regarded with worry.

That night out searching for water we walked past Hot n Hunky and the Mint. The fellas were partying with no electricity like the apocalypse had arrived and did all they could to get me inside, indelible memory. The neighborhood Korean grocer led us through the store with a flashlight to get us water.

Next day we went to the marina and saw the destruction there.

Years after moved to LA for work. Home was destroyed by the Northridge quake. That one really scared me. Ventura Boulevard made the marina look like a renovation project.
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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: timg
Date: October 17, 2009 04:11PM
I was at work (worked at AMD in Sunnyvale at that time). Second floor of a building with a fab on the first floor.

I remember just standing in the middle of a big room full or cubicles like an idiot and watching the telephone poles swaying back and forth.

After it stopped shaking, we exited the building. When the security guys told us to go home, we went across the street to a Pizza place/bar and had some pizza and beer while watching the news repeating the same scenes over and over again. The bay bridge, the marina on fire, the Cypress structure.

When I got home, the only thing broken was one of my ceramic California Raisins. Anybody remember them?
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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: Plumbking
Date: October 17, 2009 05:24PM
I was on my way to plumbing school in my car waiting for the lights to change on El Camino. The car was rocking back and forth I thought it was my passenger messing around. School was closed that evening. Went to the shop and just a few fittings fell on the ground.

I lived in SF at the time and couldn't get home because all the overpasses were closed. Spent the night at my journeymans house.

My parents house in the city was fine but all the houses across the street slid off of their foundations. The gas company came soon after and disconnected all the gas mains at the street with a jackhammer so it was permanent.

My apartment was fine, luckily my roomate was playing my Nintentdo on my tv and steadyied it from falling.

My girlfiend (now wife) was at Boston College watching the world series had heard the Bay bridge collapesd and SF was on fire, but she couldn't get through on any phone lines. I think I had a pager at the time.

Wow that was a long time ago.

Thanks now I feel old. old fogey smiley
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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: earache
Date: October 17, 2009 07:48PM
I'll share with you guys a write up of my experience with the quake. It's quite long and unfinished, but I think you'll enjoy it:

The Great
of 1989

It was October 17, 1989 at 5:04 pm. The day was hot and there was a warm breeze blowing through Silicon Valley. It was your basic run of the mill day at San Jose State University. We had gone to the DC (Dining Commons) a little early that day. The usual crowd was there. My roommate Randy and my friends; Sonya, Barry, Glen, Vince, Marshall. The DC is a very strange two story building. The kitchen and the dining area are located on the second floor, while the dishwashing room and freezers are on the first floor. The second floor is supported by a series of pillars. It is definitely not the most stable looking structure. Adjacent to the DC is West Hall. West Hall is a 12 story dormitory which houses about 700 students. West Hall is the tallest building on campus, and one of the tallest in the San Jose area.

Our group arrived at the DC about 4:45 for the usual delicious dinner. (Sarcasm) I don’t even remember what we had to eat. It was probably something like egg plant parmesan or shepard’s pie. During dinner, the usual antics occurred. Someone put an olive in Vince’s milk, and we had a wet napkin fight. But on this day, we didn’t partake in the daily tradition that was started about a month earlier. A simulated earthquake. Randy, Barry and myself had, for the past month, invariably rumbled our knees against the bottom of our table, producing a well simulated earthquake. Silverware would rattle. Coke would slosh out of glasses. And an unsuspecting victim might get a look of concern on his/her face. But, for some reason, we didn’t create this awesome simulation today.

We had all finished our delicious meal and were just about ready to leave, when all of a sudden I felt the table shake. I looked at Randy, and then at Barry, to see if they were the culprits. They were looking at me with the same intent. A quick survey of the room concluded that yes, we were having an earthquake. Having been through numerous earthquakes, I just sat there thinking it would be over in a second. It felt like a very mild earthquake, about 4 on the Richter scale. After you’ve been in a few earthquakes, you can usually guess the strength of an earthquake. But this one was different. My mind flashed back to a report that I read once about the safety of buildings on campus during an earthquake. The DC was one building that was not designed to survive a large quake. All this took about two seconds. Everyone was just sitting there. Being very quiet. Listening to the rumble. Looking at each other. Actually enjoying it. We have about three or four small earthquakes a year, and every one of them is a treat. They have to be. But then, to our surprise, there was this big crash. It sounded like an explosion. The whole building moved underneath our feet. We watched the hanging lights above our heads crash back and forth against the ceiling. Everyone was very tense in their seats. But no one moved. We watched a group of salad bowls crash to the ground. Then we heard a lot of huge crashes somewhere in the kitchen. Again, I thought about the report I read on building safety. Then, I stood up. Everyone at my table looked at me as if waiting for an answer. I said in a loud, but fairly calm voice, “Everybody, get the hell out of here!” And that’s exactly what they did. My roommate and I were the first to react. We ran for the door. Everyone else followed. Marshal bowled over Barry, who we later found, had stayed in the DC. We ran. Randy was in front. I was second, with Marshal coming up from behind, fast. We got out the door, and started for the stairs. I was in front. Randy was second. And Marshal was gaining. Then we finally hit the stairs. Let me tell you, that running down stairs during an earthquake is no easy feat. There were only two flights of stairs to negotiate, but the quake made them much more difficult. It was at the stairs, that Marshal passed Randy and I up. Luckily nobody fell going down the stairs. We finally reached the lawn from where we could see the DC, West Hall, and the pool.

Our first thought was to look up at West Hall. West is built on rollers so that it sways with the earthquake waves. There’s a positive and negative side to having a building on rollers. The positive side is that the building won’t collapse during a quake. The negative side is that the magnitude of the earthquake is multiplied because of the swaying. The higher up you are in the building the greater the magnitude. I live on the tenth floor, so when there’s an earthquake, even a little one, you really feel it. West Hall sways about twenty to thirty feet in each direction.

We looked up at West. It was swaying back and forth pretty bad. Vince arrived, and he and I quickly decided that the quake was at least 6.5 on the Richter scale. Then we looked at the pool. There was a water polo game going on when the quake hit. The players were riding four foot waves. They were being tossed around like they were nothing. By this time there was quite a crowd on the lawn. Nearly all the people in the DC had come out, and we could see people pouring out of West Hall. Then the shaking stopped. For a while. We sat around waiting for something to happen. They wouldn’t let us go back into the DC or West Hall. So we waited. We had no idea of the destruction caused by the quake.

Every now and then we would feel a tremor. During the following week we must have felt a hundred small quakes.

I never finished the rest of the story, even though there's much more to tell. Waiting for word of what happened. Seeing fuzzy pictures of San Francisco on fire and the bridge collapsed on a 5" TV. Eating dinner at Original Joes and finally getting through to our parents. Walking deserted streets. 8 of us sleeping in a Red Lyon hotel room on the floor. Driving through SF to get home and wondering what the hell just happened. Pretty amazing stuff.

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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: Kate
Date: October 17, 2009 11:21PM
We were living in Felton at the time. Both my husband and I were home, working in our matting (and framing) room. We had mat board on shelves and it started flying across the room. We looked at it, and both went for the exterior door frame. We lost our chimney, the foundation of the house cracked and had a good bit of damage. We were frightened, but we had been through the Love Creek mudslide a few years before and understood that if we were both all right, that was all that really mattered.

Then we were down at Disneyland, staying on the 14th floor of the Pan Pacific Hotel (right next door to the Disneyland Hotel) when the Northridge hit. We figured that was our third of "these things come in threes" and haven't experienced a natural disaster since.

And I hope we never do again.

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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: BCam
Date: October 18, 2009 01:31AM
Was sitting in my living room in LA watching the pre-game. The picture went to snow. I was puzzled. I know ABC carries three deep back up for their big games -Series, MNF etc. Confused - I thought back to Al Michaels talking, "I think we're having an er ......." UH oh. I got up and switched on the radio (good ol' KNX Newsradio 1070 AM). They weren't breaking the story yet. But that Micahels comment. It must have been maybe 2 or 3 minutes - then I looked at a three foot long plant hanger in the corner. It started to gently sway North and South. Then I knew for sure.
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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: gabester
Date: October 18, 2009 05:31AM
I had played hookey from school that day. I was in the middle of a "Battle for Midway" strategy game, as I noticed things in my room continuously rattling. For a few more moments I thought it was just harmonic vibrations caused by an idling fire truck outside... I had just turned around and was looking at the TV in the living room where the game had been tuned in a few minutes before and watched in amazement as the reception blacked out. Then the big jolts began to arrive. Flickering lights, the sense of being on a roller coaster inside your house. I was already standing in a doorframe and it seemed like it was over before the magnitude of the quake really sank in.

It was great luck that the SF Giants were playing the Oakland A's - a lot of people left work early, whether to see the game or to avoid the traffic jams caused by those wanting to see the game. If it had been a regular rush hours many more might have perished in the collapsed freeway or perhaps the greater weight of vehicles on the Bay or Golden Gate bridges might have caused structural failure.
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Re: 20 years ago today: Loma Prieta earthquake
Posted by: AAA
Date: October 18, 2009 09:22AM
The one thing that sticks out in my mind was an interview they had (impromptu) with a firefighter on the side of the street.

They asked his name and it was the same as my real name. Never heard my name on TV before.

Other than that, don't recall much. Cali and race relation news goes in one ear and out the other.
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