Decorative image of a snow capped mountain This is the geography site logo Image of a man standing on a mountain top. Just decoration
A small box showing either todays date or the time
A small box showing either todays date or the time


The Loma Prieta Earthquake Of 1989

By Todd Wagner

When I left work, I got into my car, backed out of my parking space, and started driving across the parking lot at Intel Corp. About 20 yards away, and still in the parking lot, the car started to wobble. I thought I had a flat tire, but when I got out I realized that the ground was swaying like the deck of a small boat.

At Intel I was a member of the Emergency Response Team, so I immediately parked the car, put on my hard hat and went back in.

Meanwhile the other employees were evacuating the building and assembling in groups in the parking lot so we could make sure everyone was out. The building was a mess with ceiling tiles all over the floor, alongside notebooks and a few computer monitors. In one office a vent fan had fallen out of the ceiling. Fortunately, there were no injuries, and I spent the next hour escorting people back into the building to get their purses, car keys, etc, so they could leave.

I had it easy! Other members of the Emergency Response Team had the job of going into the lab, filled with dangerous liquids and gasses, to check for spills and leaks. They had to wear special plastic suits and and carry air tanks like scuba divers use. There was no electricity.

Going home was a mess, since all of the signal lights were out. On the freeway one overpass I normally use had sunk about 6 inches! My house was even worse. No electricity (meaning no lights or vacuum cleaner). About a foot of water had sloshed out of my aquarium, two TV sets had fallen to the floor, and one bookcase had toppled over sending a stereo speaker into the wall (leaving a triangular hole where the corner of the speaker hit).

All of this was minor compared to the kitchen. Most of the cabinets had opened and everything fell to the floor. Broken plates, glasses, ketchup, mustard, spices, wine, salad dressing, flour, etc, formed a couple of inches of sludge on the floor. It was so thick I couldn't sweep it up or mop it up, and the broken glass made it impossible to pick up by hand. I cleaned the kitchen with a shovel!

The good news was that my house, which was built by a guy who used to work for the Geological Survey and knew a lot about earthquakes, suffered no structural damage. For the next two days, still without electricity, we read by candlelight and listened to the radio. I also spent several hours cleaning the garage. I build a lot of stuff and there were hundreds of nuts and bolts all over the floor.

Also, one good friend of mine had driven to UC Berkeley the day of the quake. She had driven through the Cypress Stucture 30 minutes before it collapsed!

Click to go back one page

We value your ideas and suggestions. Please contact the maintainer of this site.

This page can be found at:

Last update to this statement was on: October 26, 2005

© Copyright Geography Site

Logo of NGFL NGfL Home Page Black rectangle that is part of the bar along the bottom of the page