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 for decades by 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.
Aftermath of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
The earthquake broke gas lines, and fires erupted throughout the city for days. An another fire erupted when a woman attempted to cook breakfast on a stove with a broken chimney. Some fires also were set deliberately by the fire department.
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 people were homeless. Many of these individuals were still living in relief shacks two years later.
Damage totaled $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. Attempts were made to block the Chinese from rebuilding Chinatown, so the area could be repurposed, but the attempt failed.
The city was rebuilt in a logical and aesthetically pleasing way.
Updated: 23 October 2020
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