Loma Prieta Earthquake: 27 years later

At 5:04 p.m., just three minutes before the first pitch of Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants, ABC play-by-play broadcaster Al Michaels and analyst Tim McCarver were voicing a video package of Game 2 highlights when Michaels suddenly interrupted McCarver and uttered these infamous words: “I’ll tell you what, we are having an earthquake…”

His voice trailed off, and the television screen went silent. In that moment, millions of baseball fans waited about 20 seconds before Michaels’ audio returned without video from Candlestick Park in San Francisco. But, for thousands in the Bay Area, the nightmare was only beginning.

Today is the 27-year anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, which caused 63 deaths, 3,757 injuries and an estimated $6 billion in property damage. It was the largest earthquake to occur on the San Andreas Fault since the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 also buckled the Bay Area.

Eighty-three years later Oakland and San Francisco again suffered severe property damage, including the San Francisco’s Marina District along with the coastal areas of Oakland and Alameda in the east San Francisco Bay shore. Bridges collapsed, infrastructures were destroyed and lives changed forever in a matter of seconds.


More than 80 of the 1,500 bridges in the area sustained minor damage, 10 required temporary supports, and 10 were closed due to major structural damage, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Forty-one deaths occurred on the Cypress Street Viaduct and one died on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Damage to the transportation system was estimated at $1.8 billion, USGS reported.

The earthquake’s epicenter, in the Santa Cruz Mountains, contributed to more than 1,000 landslides and rockfalls, and caused traffic disruption on State Highway 17 for about a month.

Other towns in the area that also experienced severe property damage included: Boulder Creek, Corralitos, Hollister, Moss Landing, and several smaller communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

While pools swayed as far away as Sacramento, the strength of the earthquake also vibrated throughout most of Central California and into parts of western Nevada.

According to the USGS, 51 aftershocks of magnitude 3.0 or larger were recorded during the first day after the main shock, and 16 more occurred during the second day. In a span of three weeks, 87 magnitude 3.0 or larger aftershocks had occurred.

The Loma Prieta anniversary is just another reminder of the importance of earthquake preparedness.  The Great ShakeOut is scheduled for Thursday at 10:20 a.m., with a nationwide focus on practicing the “Drop, Cover and Hold On” drill.

Take the first step for being prepared today – register for ShakeOut.


Additional resources:

Cal OES Earthquake Preparedness

United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Jonathan Gudel

Jonathan Gudel is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). Since joining Cal OES, he has assisted in the response and recovery efforts of the Aliso Canyon Gas Leak, the state's historic drought, the Oroville Dam Emergency Spillway Incident, unprecedented winter storms in 2017, the October (Sonoma County) and December (Santa Barbara County) 2017 wildfires, and statewide wildfire siege in 2018 . Previously, he worked in the newspaper industry for 12 years.

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