San Franciscans do not worry about tornadoes, hurricanes, massive flooding, damaging thunderstorms with destructive lightening, or ice and snow storms. For the most part, the weather is very mild, and rarely dips below freezing. Mother Nature leaves the tip of the peninsula alone and allows its residents to live in relative peace and calm. Unfortunately, San Francisco is not totally exempt from disaster; there is always the threat of earthquake and the remote possibility of tsunamis.
One of the more powerful reminders of this underground threat occurred on October 17th, 1989 at 5:04 p.m. with the Loma Preita Earthquake. The epicenter was near Aptos and did wide spread destruction to Santa Cruz and Watsonville, killing 67 people and damaging property in excess of six billion dollars throughout the Bay Area. In the city, the earthquake caused a section of the upper deck of the Bay Bridge to fall onto the lower deck, demolished part of the 101 expressway, and lead to extensive damage in the Marina District.
At first people sighed relief thinking that they had just survived the dreaded “big one” that had been predicted for years, the one that is supposed to rival the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. As scientists began to study this quake, they realized that this is not the catastrophic one that was predicted. In fact, this one was fairly minimal when compared to the ones in the past and the predicted “big one” in the future. For example, the 1906 Earthquake produced 30 times more energy and ten times more ground movement.
In San Francisco, people don’t talk about if there is going to be a big earthquake, it is a matter of when the “big one” hits. Everyone knows it is coming. It will be bad. It will be catastrophic. It will change the way this city looks, feels, and operates, but it won’t be the end of the world. Contrary to what some people think, San Francisco is not living so close to the edge that it is apt to fall into the ocean at the first sign of a substantial earthquake. There will be no such dramatic event for the city in this lifetime. An overwhelming majority will survive, clean up the mess, and rebuild.
This city has an unquenchable energy and vibe that continually powers its creativity and resiliency. No matter what happens, people will continue to come here in order to freely love, create, and dream. It has been, and always will be, the place for new beginnings and experiential living.