Nevada County residents remember Bay Area’s Loma Prieta earthquake |

Nevada County residents remember Bay Area’s Loma Prieta earthquake

FILE - In this Oct. 19, 1989 file photo, Workers check the damage to Interstate 880 in Oakland, Calif., after it collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake two days earlier. Oct. 19, 2009, marks the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)
AP | Pool AP

Quake memories

Mary Anne Hughes Davis: My in-laws lived in Aptos, 3 miles from the epicenter at Loma Prieta. They’d been away and returned home not 5 minutes before the quake struck. My mother-in-law was on her deck watering her orchids and wondering why they kept moving away from the watering wand. We could not reach them for literally lines down. It was a very scary time. The devastation in Watsonville was huge, although since it wasn’t a wealthy area there was no focus on that area in the news. Even a year later you’d drive through that area and people were still living in tents.

Kurt Greiner: Yep, I owned a gas station in Belmont at the time, and was under a car on the lift when the quake happened (thought one of my guys was screwing around rocking the car) , turned and saw the wave ripple through the ground. A car outside on a floor jack jumped up and landed right back down on it. Oddly enough, our power stayed on and after checking the facility we stayed open until we ran out of gas to handle the massive amount of people detoured from the normal routes by the Bay Bridge failure. Even the soda and candy machines were sold out.

Sonya Craig: I was in San Jose, pregnant, in my car at a signal. I didn’t know what the signal lights started swaying , then I realized what it was. It was intense. We were in the heart of it.

Lynda Lasich: In the bleachers at NU watching a volleyball match w/radio at hand to hear the game that was interrupted w/Loma Prieta earthquake.

Trish Browne-Gross: I was on the freeway in San Jose and it was bucking like a rank bull at the rodeo! Initially, I thought I had just gotten a flat (or two)! 60 mph and Yehaw!

Gilbert Dominguez: We were living in the San Fernando Valley in LA watching the game. BUT Lyn’s Dad had just flown in to SFO going home to Red Bluff and had just crossed the Oakland Bay bridge when it hit. Saw it in the rear view mirror.

Raymond Hurley: Going to a ROP class in Nevada city down Brunswick Road thought I had a flat on the car pulled over check the tires, got to school it was all over the news on TV!! Scary. My mom lived in the bay area at the time, could not get a hold of her for many hours wow! As it turned out she was shopping at Mervins things falling on her trapped in a store for awhile, she made it thru OK but scared to death! Some damage to her Home wow!

Sonya Craig: Yeah and a couple years later I timed my Disney land vacation at the exact time of that SoCal earthquake, and we were in our motor home on a cliff in Malibu when it hit in middle of the night. That was even more fun.

Inger Moeller Avery: I was in Portland OR while my (now husband) finished college - we are both from NoCal and tried to make sense of what the news reports were showing. They kept saying the Bay Bridge had collapsed but then would show footage of the Embarcadero Freeway, which we knew darn well was not the Bay Bridge... It took at least a day for the national news to sort out which footage belonged to which collapsed roadway.

Sara Wall: We lived in San Jose. I was 6 years old playing in my backyard when it happened. I remember thinking the ground was going to open up beneath me. So I held onto the only thing I could . . . The grass. When it stopped my grandfather came outside & got me. I remember the rest of the day feeling the after shocks & just being weird & scary!

Kathlene Warner: We lived in San Jose, CA. I was 5 years old, my little sister had just turned 3 on the 13th. I know it was a Tuesday, not because of the stories telling me but because on Tuesday my dad worked late and my mom, sister and I went to stay with my Grandma while my Papa went square dancing. I was vacuuming the living room carpet when the quake hit. With every roll of the quake the power shut off or back on. And with each power surge the vacuum jumped towards me. I thought it was trying to eat me. My mom finally got it unplugged from the wall and used her body to shield my grandma, sister and I as the quake finished incase anything feel. My grandmother had had a stroke 3 years before. For months after that I couldn’t be in the same room as a running vacuum cleaner. I to this day can’t be on the earthquake simulator at The Tech Museum of San José when they simulate Loma Prieta.

Jenifer Ellicott Abbott: I was taking a night time college class on the Nevada Union campus. I was sitting at the patio outside of the cafeteria when the patio started to roll. You could literally see the patio rolling like waves in the ocean. I knew something big had happened but went on to my class only to find out later of all of the destruction in the Bay Area.

Samantha Roach-Walsh: I lived in a 2nd story apartment complex in Santa Cruz and I remember it, as though it was yesterday. One of my brothers also lived in Santa Cruz and my other brother was going to school in England at the time. My parents live/d in Nevada City. My poor Mom was on her way to Costco in Sacramento. When she got inside, every TV was reporting the quake. She was frantically on a pay phone trying to locate us with no success. It wasn’t until much later that night that I was able to find a working phone to tell her we were okay. My brother in England, thought we fell into the ocean.

Melissa Haskins: I lived in Sunnyvale, I had just turned on the game. I had 2 small children, 1 and 8. We had just started eating dinner. When the shaking started I literally threw them both under the stairs and covered them with my body. I know the news said the big quake only lasted 15 seconds, but to me it felt like a life time. In the aftermath, I could not reach my husband, this was before everyone had cell phones. The phone service was in and out. He rode the train home, he did not get home til after 10 p.m. I finally got ahold of other family members like my 89 year old great grandmother, who was terrified of earthquakes due to her experience in 1906. She lived in San Fran than. My mother called because my father had called her freaking out from So Cal about the Bay Bridge collapsing. I slept on the living room floor for 4 nights and the news was on 24/7 replaying all of the horror. We watched as people were pulled from the Embarcadero. It was one of the reasons I left the bay area.

Mick Collins: I was in a sports bar outside of Baltimore watching the game. I was in the same bar when we first started bombing Iraq in 1991. That was a cool place

Jason Gomes: I was working for Bullion / NCCFD at the Alta Sierra station. Sat down to work on my EMT cert and listening to the World Series. My desk kept shaking and I thought it was my coworkers messing with me and that is about the time Al Michaels said earthquake and went off the air...

Donna Recker: We were living in Burbank at the time. Earthquakes all too familiar there. Happy to be in Grass Valley!

Marilyn Webb: I had just gotten into my car in Campbell, 10 miles from the epicenter. It started “hopping” & I heard everything in the house falling/breaking. Slept in the living room with the doors open for a week:-(

Nancy Beagle: I had just picked up my children after work and was sitting at a stop light in San Jose. The roads were bending with the rolls and glass was breaking out of the store windows. It was pretty scary!

Eleni Papatestas Rodgers: I was in Santa Cruz. Fourth floor of the UCSC McHenry library. It has huge windows which were vibrating. My job downtown was damaged and several businesses were destroyed so we worked out of giant tents for the next year or more? My roommate was home and thought the vacuum cleaner was broken until he looked outside and realized there were waves in the pool.

Linda Hughes-Robuck: I was in Martinez with my daughter. Things were falling off bookshelves. After the quake, the news came on. The anchors were standing in a big room reporting the news with little light. It was scary to hear of the collapse of the Oakland Bay bridge.

Wolfgang Perner: I went to rescue my little sister. I drove into the City over the Golden Gate Bridge, paid toll, and then was shocked to see burning buildings and looting. I took her dirty laundry and tied her jewelry into a dirty sock, “You’re packed, I said, let’s get outta here.”

Jennifer Suku: I was in the US Air Force stationed at RAF Woodbridge in England. Our relatives sent us a VCR tape of the TV coverage. People I worked with had family in the Bay Area so there were lots of amazing stories. One in particular was a friends’ parents were sitting at the dining room table felt the first jolt and as they looked up, all the water in their swimming pool was in the air above the pool. Then splash it was everywhere.

Holly Hunter: I was 7 at the time. I really don’t remember much about it except for that every channel on TV was talking about it.

The epicenter of the Loma Prieta earthquake was nearly 200 miles away from Grass Valley, 10 miles from Santa Cruz, but many of Nevada County’s current residents lived in the Bay Area in 1989.

Some locals say they felt it all the way up here in the foothills, and others remember seeing the disaster dominate news coverage for weeks afterward.

Rosie Mariani grew up here, but in 1989 she was a 22-year-old college student in Oakland. When she felt the quake hit, Mariani said, she did everything wrong.

“We all laughed and joked until we started hearing reports of the bridge collapse,” Mariani said. “I had to ride a city bus home, and ended up walking the last 15 blocks home.”

“I was sitting at the patio outside of the cafeteria when the patio started to roll. You could literally see the patio rolling like waves in the ocean.”
Jennifer Ellicott Abbott
In 1989, she was taking a night class at Nevada Union.

When she got back to her apartment, Mariani found that there were a few books on the floor of her room — but her roommate’s room was completely thrashed.

“The apartments on either side of us ended up condemned,” she said. “The next week, I jumped out my window every time there was an aftershock.”

Mariani moved back to Nevada County around 1999, when her daughter was starting school. She lives in Rough and Ready now, and rarely worries about earthquakes.

“I don’t really think about it … so I must feel safer,” she said.

The magnitude 6.9 quake happened just after 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, and lasted for 20 seconds.

There was a magnitude 5.2 aftershock a few minutes later, and several hundred smaller aftershocks (2.5 or less) over the following week.

Nancy Troutner was at a Milpitas restaurant with a drink in her hand when the quake hit.

“My house in Cupertino had $8,000 damage done to it,” she said.

“What a mess! That is why we live in Nevada City.”

The Loma Prieta quake killed 63 people, according to the California Department of Conservation.

More than 3,750 injuries were reported, and more than 12,000 people were displaced by widespread, catastrophic damage to buildings and infrastructure.

Dan Taliaferro, an employee of KNCO, was driving a delivery route for an auto parts supplier.

He was 15 minutes away from the Cypress Viaduct, part of Interstate 880, when it collapsed.

“I will never forget the smell,” Taliaferro said. “It took them about 10 days to get all the people who were stuck in their cars out of the structure, most of them died instantly.”

Jennifer Ellicott Abbott lives in El Dorado Hills now, but in 1989 she was taking a night class at Nevada Union.

“I was sitting at the patio outside of the cafeteria when the patio started to roll,” she said. “You could literally see the patio rolling like waves in the ocean.”

Daniel Halloran was in Inverness, Ill., watching the World Series when he looked up from a phone call to see everything on screen shaking.

Seismic activity is less frequent here in the foothills, but it does occur. Just this week there was a swarm of four tremors near Downieville.

Most of them were less than 1.0 in magnitude, and the largest was just a 1.6 on the Richter scale.

It’s safe to say that there will be more in the future.

Looking forward

According to the Associated Press, there are three fault segments running beneath Northern California and its roughly 15 million people currently are overdue for a major earthquake. That includes one section that lies near the dams and canals that supply much of the state’s water, according to a geological study published Monday.

The three fault segments and one other in the region are loaded with enough tension to produce quakes of magnitude 6.8 or greater, according to a geological study published Monday.

They include the little-known Green Valley fault, which lies near key dams and aqueducts northeast of San Francisco.

Underestimated by geologists until now, the fault running between the cities of Napa and Fairfield is primed for a magnitude- 7.1 quake, according to researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and San Francisco State University.

The water supplies of the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California and the farm-rich Central Valley depend on the man-made water system that links to the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, noted James Lienkaemper, the U.S. Geological Survey geologist who was lead author of the study.

The Green Valley fault is last believed to have ruptured sometime in the 1600s.

To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, email or call 530-477-4230.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User