Loma Prieta Earthquake 30th Anniversary: The Bay Area Remembers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Thirty years ago Thursday, tens of thousands of people had filled Candlestick Park to watch Game 3 of the World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants when the stadium began to sway.

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“I tell you what, we’re having an earth–” ABC broadcaster Al Michaels said on the air before the network’s broadcast was abruptly cut.

Michaels was right — the 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake had just begun in Santa Cruz County on Oct. 17, 1989, rippling across Bay Area along the San Andreas Fault. It caused 63 deaths, more than 3,700 injuries and billions of dollars in damage, including roadway collapses on the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge and Nimitz Freeway.

And the ripple effects continue to this day. Every year on Oct. 17, Californians take part in the Great ShakeOut — an earthquake drill that began in 2008 in which participants practice dropping to the ground, taking cover, and holding on until the ground stops shaking.

No doubt, this year’s ShakeOut will have a special significance on the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta quake.

“The Loma Prieta earthquake was a tragedy that caused immense suffering for thousands of California residents,” Glenn Pomeroy, CEO of the California Earthquake Authority, said in a statement.

“Anniversaries for big earthquakes often serve as painful reminders of why we need to know how to drop, cover and hold on when the ground shakes, and know how to financially recover from damage that may be expensive to repair,” Pomeroy said.

Emergency workers prop up a building in San Francisco’s Marina District, which suffered some of the city’s worst damage. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

Plus, there have been other, more dramatic reminders of Loma Prieta in the Bay Area recently. A spate of earthquakes has rocked the region this week, starting with a 4.5-magnitude quake Monday night and followed by two more Tuesday afternoon and evening.

Fortunately, these quakes were tame compared to the devastation of Loma Prieta. But they reminded people around the Bay Area — even those who weren’t around in 1989 — what those fault lines are capable of.

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