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Where were you when the Loma Prieta quake struck?

Original post made by RHine@AlmanacNews.com, editor of The Almanac, on Oct 14, 2009

When the Loma Prieta earthquake struck on Oct. 17, 1989, I was on Caltrain, returning to San Francisco to watch the World Series on TV, a historic event itself since the A's and the Giants were in it that year.

The quake occurred as the train pulled into the San Francisco station. The train stopped for a while before entering the station. There was no announcement and I wasn't even aware there was a quake since I was in the upper deck of the train car and the train rocks naturally.

When I deboarded, I turned on my portable radio to check the Series, and was told there was a delay due to an earthquake. I didn't think much of it since small quakes are not uncommon around here. When I later heard a news reporter say the Bay Bridge was down, that got my attention. It turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration.

I was planning to take the Muni line, but that was out of service, and so I headed home by foot. I remember looking down Market Street toward the Financial District and seeing a sight that reminded me of a Godzilla movie. People were streaming through the streets and up above them was the Goodyear blimp, televising the scene. The blimp was conveniently in town for the Series.


Comments (11)

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 14, 2009 at 9:15 am

I was doing mind-numbing work as a technical writer for a software company in Palo Alto, but thinking I had the world's best job. Tedium can lead to self-deception if tedium is your only option.

The rolling was not stopping and I recall thinking "This can't be happening, can it? Do I have to get under my desk? Is it really that bad?"

After the shaking stopped, we were standing around outside and one woman, not terribly sharp, said, as she put an unlit cigarette to her lips and pulled out her lighter, "What's that smell?"

With some alacrity, we interrupted her intentions.


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Posted by JBH
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 14, 2009 at 11:07 am

I was under the desk at the old Almanac offices on Oak Grove. I thought it would never end! I discovered that window blinds could move in many opposing directions simultaneously.


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Posted by Suzanne
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 14, 2009 at 12:18 pm

At a lawyers office signing a new trust--he'd just told us his rates and the earth moved. Outside later he commented that he'd never quite that reaction to his rates, and maybe should consider lowering them :)


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Posted by Marie
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm


My husband and I were in London and flying home on the morning of the quake. Reliable news reports were scarce immediately after the earthquake. As we waited at Heathrow for our flight, it was impossible not to notice the tabloids' sensational headlines: "Sandwich of Death" (the Bay Bridge), "Thousands Perish in Seconds" and "City in Flames Falls into Bay". Thankfully, our flight crew (United and all SF-based) kept us updated as possible with more accurate information.


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Posted by Suzan
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 14, 2009 at 12:41 pm

I was at home just after returning from a school field trip to Lawrence Hall of Science. I had driven 5 fourth graders across the Bay Bridge. My sister from Idaho called to make sure I was all right. I told her that this was just another one of the small quakes we have all the time, at which point she told me that the upper deck of the Bay Bridge had collapsed. I felt extremely grateful that we crossed the bridge when we did and not later.


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Posted by Elizabeth Lasensky
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 14, 2009 at 2:39 pm

I had just gotten home in Mt. View, third floor apartment, and had opened my closet doors to put stuff away. All the things on the upper shelf came flying out so I went into the hallway. From there I could watch the seismic waves roll the floor, making my kitchen cupboards open and shut, open and shut. Fortunately my fridge was on the opposite side and the door was not affected. My TV flew off its stand onto the living room floor, my bookcases collapsed and fell onto my rocking chair. The chair has hardly a mark on it so I've kept it as a good luck chair.

I could hear people screaming during the 15 seconds. Afterwards a couple of neighbors and I went around to see if everyone was OK and take orders for a run to the store.





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Posted by Older and Wiser
a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 14, 2009 at 5:34 pm

My husband and I were living in Sonoma County; he was tele-communting but driving to the Peninsula once a week for work, which he had done on the day of the quake. We felt the shaking even in Sonoma County. I ran outside with my two young children until it stopped (which may have been the best idea in a 115-year-old house). My husband had the sense to call us immediately and say he was OK, because the phones were tied up soon after and he would not have been able to get through. It took him three days to get home because of the problems with the bridges. He ended up staying at the home of a friend who was out of town, and was also able to assure the friend that all was OK in his home.
The images shown on the television were horrifying - of the collapsed freeway and the damaged bridge, and may have left those outside the area more frightened than those in it.


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Posted by Barb
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 14, 2009 at 5:46 pm

At 5:04PM I was on the phone with my mother in San Jose. She yelled"earthquake!" and the phone went dead. Seconds later it rolled up here and shook up this old 1946 apt. building. The plate glass window looked like it would implode but except for a few ceiling cracks, the building held up. (Mom was okay, too)


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Posted by AC
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 15, 2009 at 11:08 am

I was frosting my mother's birthday cake at home in Redwood City when it hit. My sister and I didn't think much of it at first, and tried to act cool in front of our European exchange student. As it got worse, I dove under the kitchen table and my sister headed for a door frame.

Our exchange student, who'd never been in an earthquake before, braced a heavy bookcase and kept it from falling over. She definitely kept her cool better than the California natives.


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Posted by bh
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2009 at 11:02 am

I was here:

Web Link

in the middle of an economic's class. I had experienced other earthquakes prior to LP, but this one really shook for a long-time.

It created surreal atmosphere around Santa Cruz for two weeks.


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Posted by AC
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2009 at 11:50 am

Nice to see the old alma mater. I arrived the following year, and downtown Santa Cruz was still a big mess.


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