We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Was the Loma Prieta Earthquake?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
America Explained is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At America Explained, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The Loma Prieta earthquake was a major earthquake that caused extensive damage throughout Northern California on 17 October 1989. Known variously as the '89 quake or the World Series earthquake, the quake is believed responsible for about 60 deaths and nearly 4000 injuries. Experts suggest that damage from the Loma Prieta earthquake would have been far more devastating if not for widespread earthquake retrofitting throughout much of the Bay Area and other affected areas.

According to some scientific findings, the Loma Prieta earthquake may have been connected to a series of magnetic disturbances near the fault areas that had been occurring for nearly two weeks prior to the quake. At 5:04 P.M. On 17 October 1989, the 7.1 Richter scale earthquake occurred deep in the Santa Cruz mountains near Loma Prieta Peak on the San Andreas fault. Along the fault line, which serves as a major boundary between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates, rocks at the surface fell up to 7 ft (2.1 m) during the quake.

At the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake, the Bay Area was already in a frenzy over the 1989 World Series, which was being held between two local teams, the Oakland A's and the San Francisco Giants. The quake occurred during warm-ups for game three of the series at Candlestick Park, meaning that considerable footage of the quake was captured on the already-present news cameras. This marked one of the first earthquakes in which extensive news footage was filmed during the event.

One of the most recognizable damage sites of the earthquake is the Bay Bridge, a double-decked structure that connects San Francisco to Oakland. As a result of the earthquake, a section of the upper deck collapsed, trapping people on both levels of the bridge. One of the most incredible stories of the Loma Prieta earthquake concerns a survivor named Bruce Stephan, whose car plunged into the collapsed hole of the bridge and nearly fell off the structure. Mr. Stephan, having escaped a tragic death in the earthquake, went on to also miraculously survive the 11 September 2001 bombings in New York, despite being on the 65th floor of the World Trade Center at the time of the attack.

Devastation throughout the other parts of the Bay Area managed to exceed the collapsing bridge. On Interstate 880 at the Cypress Viaduct, the two-level freeway crumbled completely, killing 42 people. The Pacific Garden Mall in Santa Cruz suffered substantial collapses that killed three more. As brick facades, walls, towers, and buildings collapsed around the San Francisco Bay, many more were killed and thousands injured. Fires broke out around the area, burning a considerable portion of the picturesque Marina district in San Francisco while firetrucks were snagged in traffic delays due to the earthquake.

In the wake of the Loma Prieta earthquake, local officials vowed to extend efforts to make roads, bridges, and structures earthquake safe. More than a decade passed before most of the damage was repaired, much of that time devoted to the rebuilding of the Cypress Viaduct. Despite the damage and loss of life, experts suggest that the destructive effect of the quake could have been far more extensive, but was deterred thanks to earthquake retrofitting in many areas. Earthquake experts, however, continue to urge disaster readiness and increased safety measures to better prepare California for similar or larger earthquakes in the future.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for America Explained. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
Learn more
America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

America Explained, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.