October 17, 2004

Loma Prieta +15 Years


Fifteen years ago today, the "pretty big one" shook the San Francisco Bay Area. I lived just above Lake Merced then, and was at work in South San Francisco (north of the Airport) when the 6.9 temblor hit. (Fortunately, buildings in that area are built on solid rock, unlike other parts of the bay area, such as San Francisco's Marina and the land south of SFO. Many recall the cancelled World Series game and the flattened I-880 in the East Bay (I remember some discussion of Dan Rather pulling up to the 880 scene in a limo with a fruit bucket. He stepped out in his best outdoor gear, ready to broadcast from "San Francisco" -it was actually in Oakland).

There are some lesser known events, a few of which I will share with you now:

  • Patience:
    The Drive home from work (Loma Prieta shook us at 5:04p.m. on 10.17.1989) was an eye opener. The traffic lights did not work as the power system was down (some areas longer than others). I remember being amazed and pleased that everyone was respectful, courteous and patient at every intersection.

  • Dinner I arrived at my home (rented room in a townhouse)
    and found that a neighbor invited everyone over as her planned dinner guests from the East Bay would not be making the trip that night. She prepared a very large salmon dinner. We enjoyed one of the most beautiful pacific sunsets I've seen that night.
  • Phones (mostly) worked.
    Give Pacific Bell (now part of the SBC conglomerate) credit. The phone system was overloaded, but after a few tries, I did get through to my folks later that night. I wonder how today's cell and VOIP systems will perform during the next earthquake?
  • Humorous Circumstances
    A friend from Denver was a top IBM salesperson at the time. Part of his compensation included a trip to the World Series. The game was of course cancelled, so he made his way back to a South Airport Hotel (built on fill - I've since stayed there a few times). The guests were allowed inside in groups for 15 minutes to retreive their personal items. Cots were setup outside, on the grass, along with a free open bar. My friend took full advantage of the free drinks and finally passed out around 2:30a.m. At 3:30a.m., the lawn sprinklers turned on (Power!) and woke everyone up!

    He tried to call me throughout the night to rescue him from the cot, finally getting through around 6:00a.m. I picked him up and took him to my athletic club to get a good shower and start the recovery process.

  • Lights Out
    That night (the 18th), we drove through the City (Hwy 1 through the Presidio) and across the Golden Gate Bridge (the Bay Bridge was closed) to Tiburon where we enjoyed a great dinner and a view of a half illuminated San Francisco. T-Shirts proclaiming "I Survived..." were of course for sale that evening.
Links: Alltheweb | Clusty | Google | Teoma | Wikipedia | Yahoo

John King discusses San Francisco's architectural changes following Loma Prieta. One of the biggest is the dismantling of the eyesore that was the Embarcadero Freeway (photos).

Posted by James Zellmer at October 17, 2004 9:32 AM | Subscribe to this site via RSS:
Posted to History