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The Anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

Skyler Hallgren | OCT 18, 2017

October 17th marks the 29th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Considered by to be one of the top ten deadliest earthquakes in US history, it clocked in at a 6.9 on the Richter scale. The shaking lasted for 20 seconds and the effects were massive.

SIxty-seven people were killed, 3,000 injured, and 12,000 were displaced. There was $5 billion worth of property damaged, including the Bay Bridge and Nimitz Freeway.

The Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants matched up for the 86th Major League World Series, known as the Battle of the Bay because the two cities reside on either side of the Bay Bridge.

The series began on October 14th, and while the threat of an earthquake was always looming, to pinpoint exactly when, or where, the quake would take place was impossible.

The third game of the world series was set to start at 5:30pm The cameras we live on the field, fans were waiting patiently in their seats and the players were prepping in the dugouts. People all across the city were preparing for the face-off. Shopping, gathering snacks, and placing their bets on who would be the next World Series Champion.

The earthquake struck at 5:04pm, just 24 minutes prior to the start of the game, and the series stopped. Luckily the stadium withstood the intense shaking, but many other places were not as lucky.

Living in the PNW means always having the thought of disaster, displacement, and preparation in the back of our minds. Eventually though, we become indifferent to the possible risks.

We go about our daily lives, wondering who will win in the next big sports event, what we’ll be making for dinner, or what we’ll spend our weekends doing.

Just like those 12,000 people in 1989, who were driving, shopping, and watching television, we soak in the enjoyable moments and put worries to the back of our mind.

This element of not knowing, and our inability to determine exactly when our lives will be affected, causes the wave of indifference to influence us.

Devastating Effects

Sections of the Bay Bridge, connecting San Francisco and Oakland, toppled in a matter of seconds.

The Nimitz Freeway collapsed, causing forty-two deaths, the highest number for one area.

Many structures were damaged, fires erupted and pipelines burst. People’s homes and places of employment were destroyed.

The Marina District became engulfed in a firestorm and because of the broken pipes, water had to be pumped directly from the bay to extinguish flames and avoid spread. No longer were the residents concerned about their favorite baseball teams.

No, now, they worried about their photographs, their family pets, and the fact that the clothes on their back were all of a sudden, the only clothes they owned.

In a matter of 20 seconds, the longest 20 seconds in 1989, people lost their homes, their security, and their lives.

After a disaster of this magnitude perspectives are changed forever. Every seemingly insignificant piece of our lives, like our commute to work and access to clean water, is affected.

As many as 270,000 vehicles utilize the Bay Bridge each day. Because of this disaster the bridge was out of commission for over a month.

Since the Loma Prieta Earthquake, relief efforts were increased, preparation has intensified and communication amongst government agencies and businesses have strengthened.The reality of how intense the aftermath is raised awareness and the attention that is given to pre-disaster efforts.

The US Geological Survey published a report, “Probabilities of Large Earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay Region, California” that states another major earthquake is likely to occur between 1990 and 2020. The projected odds are 2 out of 3.

Preparation is imperative, we know this because we’ve seen what can happen.


On a governmental level, financial preparation and relief efforts need to be implemented.

On a societal level, businesses need to improve their infrastructures and on a personal level, we should be prepared.

While there are ways of reducing the impact of earthquakes and other natural disasters, there is no way to completely eliminate the risks and disruptions caused by natural disasters. Regardless of how far in advance we prepare, or how much we strengthen our infrastructures; homes will still be destroyed, lands will be changed, and people will be displaced.

The best thing to do is be educated and mindful on an individual level. Work with what we can control and rely on experts who can tell us exactly what that is.

The 86th World Series was one of the most polarizing games for the metropolitan area.

For the first time, these two teams were matched up and the competition was exciting and divisive. When the Loma Prieta Earthquake struck, the cities were brought back together.

The residents of CA and all over the US, were concerned about rebuilding neighborhoods, and finding shelter, food, clothing, and other necessary supplies for the thousands of people who were affected by this 20 second disaster.

The details of daily life were suddenly much smaller and the reality of nature’s power was the most prevalent concern.

On October 27th, the teams were back to business as usual.

Being able to heal, rebuild, and work toward a sense of normalcy, are some of the most important steps in recovery. The right preparation and awareness will help accelerate these steps, for us as a community.

The Athletics beat the Giants and went on to win the series on October 28th.

Despite such a devastating occurrence, the cities were able to rebuild and continue on. Disasters happen, and community efforts also happen. There is nothing stronger than a community working together to make the world right again.

We must use these instances as a lesson, and as a way to prepare and improve upon the way we handle our pre and post-disaster efforts.

The USGS has taken steps to better pinpoint when earthquakes can strike, but nature is not an exact science. The best they can do is offer a time frame. The best thing we can do, is always be ready.

As responsible people; mothers, fathers, sisters brothers, sons, and daughters, we need to help ourselves and our families prepare on an individual level.

The possibility that an earthquake of this magnitude will strike again increases every day.

We should never allow indifference to sink in and knock us off our guard.