Quake rattles memories
Recollecting details of temblor after 24 years reveals deficiencies in disaster preparedness
Published: Monday, October 28, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 12:10
It had not lasted long, somewhere between 10 and 15 seconds, but by the time the world had stopped shaking that Tuesday evening, the Bay Area had changed.
While standing in a small room filled with tools and work benches inside the physics lab in the Physical Sciences Building, senior electronics technician Jeffrey Kamalian recalled the events of the Loma Prieta Earthquake,
“I had just left work (as an audiotech in Berkeley). My boss was the only one left in the building. Amplifiers and equalizers went flying off the shelves.”
Kamalian said that after the earthquake, he drove to the Cypress Viaduct on Interstate 880 to look at the collapsed portion.
“I stood outside of my car and just looked at the collapsed part of the Cypress structure,” he said. “The freeway had fallen over. It was like a sci-fi movie. You could see smoke rising out of the side of the collapsed portion. And I knew people were trapped in there, which just made it even worse.”
The Loma Prieta Earthquake happened at 5:04 p.m. on Oct. 17, 1989.
A lot of things were happening at that time. People were driving to and from San Francisco, leaving work and going home. Commuters were coming and going from Oakland for much the same reason. Families were sitting down to dinner. And thousands of people were flocking to Candlestick Park in San Francisco to watch Oakland A’s Pitcher Bob Welch continue the A’s sweep of the San Francisco Giants in the “Battle of the Bay” World Series.
At that time, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a 6.9 moment magnitude earthquake with an epicenter located in the Santa Cruz Mountains shook the Bay Area. The earthquake would claim 63 lives and injure another 3,757 people, according to a report released in 1994 by the California Department of Health Services.
A portion of the Bay Bridge collapses and the Cypress Viaduct on Interstate 880 collapses as well, killing 42 people and trapping more for 90 hours, as emergency responders and members of the community struggled to free them.
The temblor had the distinction of being the first major earthquake ever broadcast live. Viewers of the televised 1989 World Series got to witness the first few seconds. Sportscaster Al Michaels was seen saying, “I’ll tell you what – we are having an earth-,” and the live feed cut from Candlestick Park.
A report released by the USGS in 2009 that compared the Loma Prieta Earthquake to the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 said that 3,000 people were left homeless by the earthquake. The same report estimated that there was $6-$10 billion of property damage done during the Loma Prieta earthquake. The repairs and retrofits needed in wake of them have just begun to be completed.
Music department Chairperson Wayne Organ said, “If you had told me in 1989 that it would be a quarter century before the Bay Bridge was finished, I’d have laughed in your face. But here we are. They just finished it this year.”
Home of the Hayward Fault
The Loma Prieta Earthquake occurred on the San Andreas Fault, in a remote location in the Santa Cruz Mountains, yet the devastation was felt throughout the Bay Area.
The San Andreas Fault runs through the Santa Cruz Mountains into the San Francisco peninsula.
But another fault line presents a much larger risk to the East Bay; the Hayward Fault is a 74-mile fault, according to the USGS, that runs through most of the East Bay. Cities such as Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, San Pablo, Emeryville and Albany all feature the Hayward Fault running through their streets.
Contra Costa College is bisected by the fault. The Hayward Fault runs underneath the Bus Transfer Center, Lot 1 and Lot 10.
Where an earthquake on the San Andreas Fault could occur on any spot on that fault’s 810-mile length, one on the Hayward Fault would occur much closer to home.
The USGS estimates that $1.5 trillion of property sits in the Hayward Fault zone.
The last time the Hayward Fault experienced a major earthquake was in 1868. A 6.7 moment magnitude quake left 30 people dead, according to a 2010 study done by Risk Management Services, an investigative insurance agency.
The USGS wrote in a report in 2008 that a 6.8 or great magnitude along the Hayward fault is “increasingly likely.”
A seismic hazard evaluation done in 2003 by William Lettis Associates showed that many buildings on CCC’s campus sit on top of active fault traces.
Geography professor Chris Johnson said, “An earthquake along the Hayward Fault would be a lot worse than the (Loma Prieta) in 1989.”
The college is taking steps to make sure an earthquake along the Hayward Fault will, hopefully, cause only minimal damage.
In 2009, the Liberal Arts Building was earthquake retrofitted to improve its chances of standing against a strong earthquake.
A Seismic Evaluation and Retrofit Studies report done by Thornton Tomasetti Building Solutions, which explains the deficiencies present in each building on campus, describes what these deficiencies are likely to lead to come an earthquake.
This report also gives each building a rank from I-VII. The report shows multiple buildings on campus have a risk level of V, which is described as representing a “substantial risk to life during the expected seismic loads.”
CCC is in the midst of its Master Plan to retrofit the campus, yet the surrounding area is under just as much risk as the campus.
Jean Perkins of the Association of Bay Area Governments said, “People should realize there is a possibility that they won’t be able to drive home from work or pick their kids up from school. A Hayward Fault earthquake could close 1,100 roads.”
The campus was constructed in 1955-56. The buildings on campus are mostly old, and worn. If one takes a trip to the Art Building, visible cracks can be seen in the structure.