#OnThisDay: San Francisco Earthquake, 1906

Before daylight on Wednesday, April 18, 1906, the northern coast of California, including the city of San Francisco, was rocked by an earthquake of historic proportions. In retrospect, it was estimated to have been on the magnitude of 7.9.

The earthquake and its resulting fires destroyed 500 city blocks – approximately 28,000 buildings. The fires burned for three days and intensified the citizens’ fears and anxiety.

Photo credit: Christopher Burns on unsplash.com

Some 200,000 people – half of the city’s population at the time – were left homeless. Although usually referred to as “the Great San Francisco Earthquake,” it also resulted in widespread damage in northern California, including San Jose and Oakland.

Cooking food inside standing houses was outlawed immediately after the earthquake in the government’s efforts to minimize additional fires. “Bread lines” were established to distribute food to the homeless and whatever food preparation that was possible was done in the streets.

According to the United States Geological Survey website, (https://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/events/1906calif/18april/) 296 miles (477 kilometers) of the San Andreas fault ruptured. The quake was felt from southern Oregon to south of Los Angeles and as far east as central Nevada. Much was learned from this earthquake, but it would be a half-century later before plate tectonics as a field of study would shed more light on exactly what processes were at play to produce the event.

The USGS website contains a drop-down menu through which you can access many more details about this earthquake, including comparisons with the October 17, 1989 quake that struck the San Francisco area just 26 minutes before Game 3 of the World Series was set to begin at Candlestick Park. It was measured at 6.9 on the Richter Scale.

Earth tremors and earthquakes of low magnitude are a daily occurrence in San Francisco. That is something I can’t imagine, since I’ve only felt two earthquakes in my life.

While doing the research for today’s blog post, I remembered reading The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner in April 2021. It’s a novel based on the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. You might like to read what I had to say about that book in my May 3, 2021 blog post, 5 Historical Novels I Read in April 2021.

Since my last blog post

Jennie Nash’s book, Blueprint for a Book: Build You Novel from the Inside Out, is helping me outline The Heirloom. Ms. Nash’s “inside outline” helps me remember there must be a reaction to every event and internal reactions are what pull readers into a story.

I continue not to be at my best physically, but I’m constantly thinking about the plotline for The Heirloom and how I can make it better.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet