Temblor causes massive damage
Earthquake kills 63, injures 3,757 others
Published: Thursday, October 15, 2009
Updated: Thursday, October 15, 2009 05:10
Moments away from the beginning of the third game of the Giants vs. A's 1989 World Series in San Francisco, the Loma Prieta earthquake rocked Candlestick Park at exactly 5:04 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 1989.
With a moment magnitude of 6.9, the quake was centered near the Loma Prieta peak in the mountains of Santa Cruz south of San Jose. Resulting in 63 deaths, 3,757 injuries and an estimated $6-$10 billion in property damage, Loma Prieta is recognized as the first large temblor to jolt the burgeoning urban region since the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906.
Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) consultant and former Earthquake and Hazards Program Manager Jeanne Perkins said that according to the information research ABAG gathered related to housing and transportation systems, more than $6 billion worth of damage was suffered among the 16,000 uninhabitable housing systems with the exception of buildings and approximately 142 road closures occurred.
Perkins said Oakland, San Francisco and Watsonville, a city in Santa Cruz County, suffered the most damage.
Charlie Eadie, land use consultant for Hamilton-Swift Land Use in Santa Cruz, said the city and Watsonville's downtown areas were the most affected areas due to soft soil.
A total of six deaths in Santa Cruz County and approximately a million square feet of office and commercial areas of downtown, along with two-thirds of the business district downtown, were damaged or destroyed, he said.
Eadie said recovery for the county has been a long, gradual process. Initially, it took five years for the process to come to a turning point and another five before the area was fully restored.
"I live on Marine Terrace, which overlooks downtown," he said. "I saw a huge cloud of yellow dust as a result of the brick buildings collapsing."
Like many that evening, Eadie was at home preparing to watch the World Series. Luckily, his house did not suffer any damage.
In September, Richmond City Council member Maria Viramontes told The Advocate that the city's Civic Center was remodeled for public safety, since the bricks in the building were not considered earthquake safe.
During the Loma Prieta earthquake, the original police building suffered damage. In 2002, former Richmond Mayor Mary Anderson made the decision to move the police headquarters to Marina Way while the process of rebuilding the original building took place, Viramontes said.
"That was the police building. The people who were in there were the people we needed to help us," she said. "If another tragedy happened, they (might) be buried under that building."
Viramontes said that after the earthquake, the city received about $10 million worth of state funds for earthquake retrofitting.
Nearly 20 years after the temblor, however, public affairs specialist for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Leslie Gordon in Menlo Park said California is probably not as prepared as it could or should be for another earthquake.
"We are prepared better than a lot of other places in the world, but not enough," she said.
At the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake, Gordon was in a computer class in Palo Alto. She said that after seeing the damage on the street, she realized the earthquake was bigger than she had originally imagined. Despite the mass of power outages, however, her neighborhood was one of the ones that did not lose electricity.
Rick McKenzie, staff research associate for the UC Berkeley Seismological Lab, said the administration building California Hall, located on Oxford Street, suffered severe damage and redevelopment took two to three months to complete.
McKenzie said the response from the community was satisfactory overall. The wave period was between 15-20 seconds. Even though they were long period waves, there was not a violent shake at UC Berkeley.
"I was at the lab about to go home," McKenzie said. "(But) instead of going home, I did everything I needed to get information about the earthquake in itself, such as the magnitude, epicenter, damages."
Among the damage afflicted throughout the Bay Area was the collapse of a 50-foot section of the upper deck of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, causing two cars to fall to the lower deck, resulting in a fatality.
During the bridge's closure, ferryboats from San Diego and Washington were shipped to relieve the strain from the traffic by providing transportation along with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART).
The Cypress Street Viaduct portion of Interstate 880, a double-decked section that went through West Oakland, also suffered severe damage, when approximately a mile and a half collapsed, causing 42 deaths, according to the USGS.
Most of the buildings and their foundations in San Francisco's Marina District were destroyed, creating massive landslides, damage of dams and ground cracks in large areas.
Stein Ove Sandvik, project manager for Lindquist Custom Construction, worked on some of the reconstruction of the Marina District.
He said the reason why the area suffered the most damage is because the houses on that area are built on sand.
"The process is called liquefaction," Sandvik said. "When you shake sand, it turns into liquid. So if you have something heavy on top of it, it sinks."
Liquefaction also caused severe damage to the coastal areas of Oakland and Alameda.
Michael Hughes was editor-in-chief of The Advocate from 1989-90 during the Loma Prieta earthquake.
Hughes was assigned to report the damage of the Cypress Street Viaduct for that week's edition of The Advocate.