SF remembers the 1906 earthquake

From California OES:

At 5:12 a.m. [yesterday] morning, sirens echoed throughout the streets of San Francisco to mark the anniversary of the deadliest disaster in California history. A 7.9-magnitude earthquake, dubbed the 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake, crumpled infrastructures and caused massive fires in the Bay Area.

Shaking could be felt from the North Coast in Eureka to the Salinas Valley and to the south of San Francisco. The main shock lasted approximately 42 seconds, with a preceding strong foreshock shaking about 20-25 seconds.

Nearly 3,000 deaths at minimum were estimated as a result of the earthquake, though that total is still unconfirmed today. The earthquake itself was crippling, but subsequent fires accounted for more than 90 percent of the damage.

The majority of those deaths occurred in San Francisco, although neighboring cities such as Santa Rosa and San Jose also suffered devastation. The entire downtown of Santa Rosa was destroyed.

During today’s ceremony, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, along with other agency personnel including members of the Cal OES Coastal Region, stood in front of Lotta’s Fountain at the exact moment the earthquake struck 111 years ago. At 6 a.m., the city performed the symbolic painting of the golden hydrant. When San Francisco burst into flames in the following days, much of the city’s network of fire hydrants failed. Miraculously this hydrant, nicknamed “little giant,” is said to have been the only functioning hydrant and is credited with saving the historic Mission District neighborhood from a certain fiery doom.

Painted with a fresh coat of gold paint each April 18, the fire hydrant above Dolores Park now stands as a testament to the fire department’s valiant efforts to save the city against almost insurmountable odds.

Eighty-three years after the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco again dealt with a catastrophic disaster. Remembered for its interruption of the World Series, the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake contributed to 63 deaths and more than 3,700 injuries.

San Francisco now braces for what’s next. It’s not a matter of if another earthquake will strike, but just a matter of when.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) rolled out Version 1.2 of the ShakeAlert earthquake early warning system to the West Coast, which included Washington and Oregon along with California. The system does not yet support public warnings but this version allows selected early adopters to develop pilot implementations that demonstrate the system’s utility and develop technologies that pave the way for broader use, the USGS said.

As a disaster-prone state, California regularly responds to wildfires, earthquakes and floods, among other disasters. Extensive work is being done to not only prepare Californians but also to warn them of an impending earthquake. Using science and the technology of monitoring systems, the California Earthquake Early Warning Program is designed to create an alert when shaking waves generated by an earthquake are expected to arrive at a specific location.

Once fully developed, the system could give downtown Los Angeles 40 to 50 seconds of warning that a potentially damaging earthquake is headed from the southern San Andreas fault, giving time for elevators to stop at the next floor and open up, firefighters to open garage doors, high-speed trains to slow down to avoid derailment and medical personnel to stabilize patients on an operating table.

Click here to learn more about the earthquake early warning system.

Additional resources


Cal OES Earthquake, Tsunami & Volcano Programs

California Earthquake Authority


6 thoughts on “SF remembers the 1906 earthquake

  1. nice piece – nice reminder – nice acknowledgement to responders past, present and future… yep – and a nice reminder of responders of a different nature.
    We are all effected by many things, in many ways every day. We “respond” therefore we are all responders to a degree.
    The “little giant”. Didn’t know that part of the story. I probably unfortunately got stuck on the pictures of devastation years back while “learning” about the event in a gloom-and-doom manner, as often was the teaching format and in many cases, still is. I wish I had been made aware of that message of hope and of goodness in that dark lesson as a child. Something positive to respond to.
    But I got it now and yes – the child in me is still here. I try to feed her and let her run to enjoy the sunshine on her back and the rain on her upturned face. To bend down to discover that little wildflower and to look up to see what there is to see. She is what keeps me sane and makes me human and now… she really likes that story of the little giant.
    We should all strive to be like the little giant, in our own way.
    And to be thankful that we can see that little flower.
    Have a great day.

  2. Nice comment, Denise. I, too, was struck by the annual painting of the “little giant” and had not heard it before. That is what caused me to post this to the blog, not my usual fare.


  3. I always have trouble with those two, myself. I try to remember “affected” is generally a verb and “effect” is generally a noun.

  4. Ah yes – generally – key word.
    A quick check and I was doing pretty good until it dove into “other” forms, past participles, with and without “ed”, etc. (insert spinning eyes) lol
    I already had a headache – a neck thing – hence my reason to go play in the dirt… or at least sit in the sun and get some fresh air.
    haha – had some play on words going on in my head and my eyes started to get wonky.
    I got to, too, and two down. I’m gonna take that as a win and go back outside. Think I’ll invite my friend Adult Beverage to join me. 😉

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