San Francisco Earthquake: History and Facts About the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake

Discover interesting facts about the 1989 Loma Prieta San Francisco Earthquake, also known as the World Series Quake. 

Loma Prieta is one of two famous quakes in SF. The other one is the 1906 earthquake. 

The Moment It Hit

The Loma Prieta quake hit the Bay Area on the evening of October 17, 1989 at 5:04 pm. It measured a 6.9 on the Richter Scale. 

This one originated on the San Andreas fault in the Santa Cruz mountains. It got its name from the mountain where the shaking started, Loma Prieta. 

Game three of the 1989 World Series was just getting started in SF that night. It was scheduled to begin at 5:15 pm and the live broadcast had just begun. This one was caught on film and is the only major quake to be broadcast live on TV. 

It's also interesting to note that the World Series that year was between the two Bay Area teams: The Giants and the Oakland A's. After the quake, they postponed game three of the World Series for 10 days.

Many people have also commented that the level of injury from this one was less due to the timing of the start of the World Series game. Fewer people were on the roads, many left work early and were already stationed in front of their TVs to watch the game. 

If more people were on the roads during rush hour that night, the death toll and number of people injured probably would have been higher. After the initial one, several smaller, yet still intense, aftershocks continued to rock the city. 

It was about 70 miles south of SF, but the damage in the city was huge.

After the Shock

As with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, fires began to break out in the city after it hit. The main area that was impacted was the Marina District

This district in the city is built on landfill, not hard stone or rock. The ground in this area was not able to absorb the forceful shaking from the earthquake and several buildings toppled over. 

When the buildings collapsed, it broke gas lines and a number of fires started. The difference this time is that the fires were quickly put out by high powered hoses and water from the bay. 

After this one, the only freeway running through the city had to be torn down due to damage from the quake. The freeway ran along the waterfront on the eastern side of the city.

It was a double-decker freeway with two levels of lanes. The damage was so great that there was no way to repair the freeway, so it had to be removed. 

To this day, the city still has not rebuilt that portion of the freeway (which pleases locals as this part of the waterfront has been redone and is now gorgeous with the Ferry Building, the Exploratorium and several wonderful restaurants near the water).

The city of Oakland, right across the bay, also suffered quite a bit of damage from this one. The biggest issue was when a portion of the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge collapsed. 

A section of the top portion of the bridge collapsed onto the bottom portion of the bridge. Luckily, the bottom portion held up the additional weight and no cars fell into the waters of the SF Bay. 

Overall there were 63 deaths from this San Francisco earthquake. In addition, there were over 3,500 injuries and over 8,000 people became homeless. 

Significant structural damage also occurred. It is estimated that around 1,300 buildings were destroyed, and 20,000 buildings were damaged, resulting in about $6.8 billion in direct damage.

These San Francisco Earthquake books include even more facts about the famous earthquakes in the region. They have first-hand accounts of what it was like during the shaking and what it took to rebuild after each one.

The 1989 Loma Prieta San Francisco earthquake was the second most devastating earthquake in SF's history. Visit the SF 1906 Earthquake page to learn more about the other famous San Francisco earthquake or visit the What Causes Quakes? page to get more cool facts. 

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Exclusive Member of Mediavine Travel

Copyright © 2009-2022 by All rights reserved.

This website does not sell any personal information. (See privacy policy)