In the early morning of April 18, 1906, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked San Francisco. Within minutes it became one of the most devastating natural disasters of the 20th century, coming just a few years after the Galveston Hurricane.
The quake had been preceded by decades of smaller earthquakes, foreshadowing what was to come. At 5:12 am, the foreshocks began followed by the main quake. Shaking lasted a minute at most.
The tremor could be felt as far away as Nevada, Oregon and Los Angeles. The epicenter was in San Francisco Bay with the San Andreas Fault splitting for 290 miles.
The earthquake caused a tsunami and the Salinas River permanently shifted course.
The earthquake broke gas lines and fires erupted throughout the city for a period of days. Some fires also were set deliberately by the fire department; an another fire erupted when a woman attempted to cook breakfast on a stove with a broken chimney.
The death toll is uncertain, but is believed to have been at least 3,000, with the majority of the deaths occurring in San Francisco. An additional 300,000 were homeless. Many of these individuals were still living in relief shacks two years later.
The damage was $400 million in 1906 currency, $8 billion today, and 28,000 buildings were destroyed on 500 city blocks. The area received $9 million in relief funds.
Plans for rebuilding were devised almost immediately. The city was rebuilt in a logical and aesthetically pleasing way. Attempts were made to block the Chinese from rebuilding Chinatown so the area could be used for another purpose, but the attempt failed.
Have you ever lived through an earthquake? Leave a comment below.
Enjoyed reading this post? Join the mailing list and receive updates in your inbox whenever a new post is published. Simply enter your email address in the form on the bottom right of this page.