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The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

Sofia Lopez, Reporter and Editorial Board

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At 5:12 a.m. April 18th, 1906 all of San Francisco was woken up by a huge earthquake. It ranks as one of the most significant earthquakes of all time and in U.S. history. The earthquake also caused fires which burned most of the city. The earthquake is a big part of our history and should always be remembered in both good and bad ways. Many people died during it, but people worked hard and reconstructed San Francisco, they worked together and they show so much human kindness.

The Foreshock:

A foreshock is a mild tremor preceding the violent shaking movement of an earthquake. At around exactly 5:12 a.m. a foreshock occurred with enough force to be felt through out all of San Francisco.  By this point almost everyone was awake and most likely confused. The next part was the worst… the actual earthquake. After the foreshock, around 20-25 seconds later the earthquake began.

The Earthquake:

The earthquake had violent shocks, which punctuated the strong shaking. This lasted some 45-60 seconds. Other than the earthquake itself, there were also many fires all over San Francisco. The total length of the earthquakes rupture was 296 miles. The offset of the earthquake was about 20 feet, in many pictures its seen as around 8.5- 10 feet. Many scientist can’t agree on the magnitude of the earthquake but it’s in between 7.7-8.3. The fires caused way more damage on the city than the earthquake, the fires burned for 3 days straight. These fires nearly destroyed 500 city blocks.

The Aftermath:

The survivors of the earthquake would sleep in tents in city parks and the Presidio, they stood in long lines for food, and had to do cooking out on the street to minimize additional fire threats. The House and the Senate Appropriations Committees enacted emergency appropriations to pay for food, water, tents, blankets, and medical supplies. The actual aftermath ( fires, deaths, population, etc.) was horrible, more than 3,000 people were dead. The population of San Francisco at the time was about 400,000 people. Around 225,000 of the population or half of the population was left homeless. And around 28,000 buildings were destroyed. 24,671 wooden buildings were destroyed and 3,168 brick buildings were destroyed and in total that made 28,188 buildings completely destroyed.

The Expenses:

Speaking in 1906 dollars the damages equaled up to almost $400 million dollars, the earthquake alone caused the city $24 million on earthquake damages and $350 million on the fire damages. If were talking in 2018 dollars and this type of earthquake would happen again and did the same damage in total it would be more than $9 million, the earthquake would cause $626,792,588 and the fire would cause $8,893,853,890 in damages.

The Next Big Earthquake:

Based on models we’re guessing another 1906 type earthquake would happen around 200 years after that big earthquake so that means it would happen around 2106. By that time, not to be gruesome, most of us would be dead. In case the information is wrong their is only 2% chance that another would happen in the next 30 years. The real threat to the San Francisco Bay Area is a big earthquake, not 1906 magnitude, but around 7.0 would be in between the next 30 years. This earthquake could occur on the Hayward fault, the peninsula segment of the San Andreas fault, or Rogers Creek fault.

How You Should Be Prepared:

You should have earthquake supplies on hand, including enough food (good options are canned waterpacked meats; high protein breakfast or granola bars; canned or dried fruit; and canned or powdered milk), water (1 gallon per person per day) and paper products for supplies for at least 72 hours; medications you might need and personal hygiene kits; pet food; baby supplies; heavy boots and layers of extra clothing; blankets, sleeping bags; freshly stocked first-aid kit; flashlights; portable radio.

Some Other Stuff You Should Do Is:

*Move beds away from windows and glass skylights, which could shatter.

* Remove or brace heavy pictures or shelves hanging above beds.

* Secure topheavy furniture, bookcases or china cabinets to studs in walls.

* Place emergency power failure lights in hallways, bathrooms and bedrooms.

* Secure cabinet doors with latches.

* Attach any heavy objects suspended from the ceiling to studs.

* Secure your water heater to the wall with a thick metal strap.

* Consult a structural engineer to make sure that your home is bolted to the foundation and that the structure is properly reinforced.

* Consult with an engineer on the adequacy of your chimney.

* Designate a person outside your area as a message center.

* Have a family earthquake plan for clarity on who will pick up the kids, who’s in charge of pets, and where you’ll meet after a quake


*At least a week’s supply of your essential prescription medication.

*A freshly stocked first-aid kit.

*Personal hygiene products.

*A small fire extinguisher.


*Flashlight with lithium batteries.

*A manual can opener.

*A battery-operated portable radio (with extra batteries).

*A cell-phone charger.

*Layers of extra clothing.

*Blankets and/or sleeping bags.

*A small amount of cash, in case ATMs are down and/or inaccessible.

*Keep a copy of important documents such as insurance policies, identification, and bank records in case of a quick evacuation. Photos and documents can be scanned and stored online or on a thumb drive.



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