Faultline: Seismic science at the Epicenter
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World Series logo
At last, Oakland and San Francisco go head-to-head in the World Series. And then, the earth starts to shake. . . .
Video courtesy of KGO TV-News/ABC-7 News.
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opening in roadway
Homeowners around Santa Cruz saw roads split open and houses destroyed.
Video courtesy of KGO TV-News/ABC-7 News.
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Remembering Loma Prieta

A car in downtown San Francisco is crushed by falling bricks. (See larger image)
car crushed by bricks

Remembering Loma Prieta
by Mary K. Miller

On the afternoon of October 17, 1989, I tuned my portable radio to the third game of the World Series—an across-the-bay battle between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants. I was in grad school in Santa Cruz, 75 miles south of San Francisco, but I wasn’t in the mood to study. I decided to take a shower. At 5:03 p.m., I turned on the water and got undressed; at 5:04, I heard a deep rumble and the floor lurched under my feet. Having grown up in California, I was used to little temblors that rattle, then stop after a few seconds. This was different. It kept going and going for a full 15 seconds. In my bones, I knew this earthquake was very close and very strong.

Read memories of california earthquakesGlasses crashed in the kitchen and my television took a nose dive off its shelf. I wondered what I should do: stand under a doorway or run naked into the street? I stayed put as the earthquake shook my little wood-frame house, tipping over the refrigerator, dumping bookcases on the floor, and forever changing my cavalier attitude about living on the fault line. I braced myself in the doorjamb. Earthquakes can make some real noise, and I remember thinking that this was the loudest, most terrifying noise I'd ever heard.

I later learned what had happened: A 22-mile (35 km) section of the San Andreas Fault, centered near the Loma Prieta peak, about 5 miles from my home, had ruptured deep underground. The San Andreas marks the boundary between two giant blocks of the earth's surface: the Pacific Plate to the west and the North American Plate to the east. At 5:04 on October 17, the ground to the west of the rupture site lurched six feet closer to the Oregon border.

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