Never a dull moment
October 17, 2019 12:05 PM   Subscribe

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk's resident historian recounts the immediate aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta quake on the seaside amusement park and adjacent retirement home Casa Del Rey, as well as how it was rebuilt.

The Cocoanut Grove ballroom and casino arcade, which were damaged in the quake, stand on the site of the original Neptune's Casino, which itself was lost to fire in 1906 and subsequently rebuilt.
posted by subocoyne (18 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Loma Prieta: A Look Back
Historic photos of Santa Cruz County after the quake that would forever change the local landscape

The Earthquake That Ended the Santa Cruz Hippie Era
A Loma Prieta-themed walking tour of downtown
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:45 PM on October 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I was three months old. Dad worked across the bay and was in transit across the bay bridge. Mom grabbed me from my crib and wedged us in a door frame as the TV edged closer and closer to the floor. The World Series was on. I laughed and laughed and laughed something my mother has never let me forget. Dad was ok- he never even knew there was a quake until he got home. I still laugh at earthquakes, and there’s still a crack in the sidewalk outside from ‘89.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:51 PM on October 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

My wife was in the basement of Santa Cruz High when it happened. People slept outside for a long time, because they were afraid of the aftershocks and/or because their houses were condemned. The high school couldn't have their Homecoming, which really pissed off the football team. The auditorium was condemned. It's weird to see so much of your town destroyed. We moved to New York City when we got married, and it took her a long time to get used to the rumble of the subway going by underground. Then September 11 happened and she got to go through another round of "now downtown is a hole in the ground."
posted by rikschell at 2:00 PM on October 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

I lived in Berkeley, worked at home most days, but went into work in the South Bay every Wednesday ... I'd leave early to avoid the worst of the traffic .. normally I'd be stuck in traffic on the bottom of the freeway that pancaked at that time in a Wednesday.

However that week the World Series was being played by the two local teams, there was a game that Wednesday, expecting horrible traffic I went to work on Tuesday that week ... saved by baseball
posted by mbo at 2:13 PM on October 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

I worked at Tower books in San Mateo. I was standing in front the double doors and ran immediately outside, dragging a lady who was entering the bookstore, out with me. All the books were on the floor and the power was out. Having just survived the most major earthquake any of us had ever seen, we decided it was OK to just lock up and leave the books for the morning crew. Several of us piled in a car to get driven home because nothing was running transit-wise. We drove down a few blocks and found an open restaurant in a hotel and had dinner, which was oddly celebratory. We made our way down to Palo Alto on El Camino, to drop off our farthest coworker. It was an eerie mix of blocks where the power was out and then where it was on, everyone had closed up shop and the roads were largely empty.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:50 PM on October 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was at K&K Music on San Carlos in San Jose looking at guitars with some friends. The place started shaking, and let me tell you, if you've never spent much time in a guitar store, they have guitars hanging from their necks on the ceiling and walls and all over the place, and they all started swinging in an increasingly dangerous way. We all kind of looked at each other after a handful of seconds and started for the door. One friend had been playing a guitar and because earthquakes are kind of unsettling he also walked toward the door with the guitar still in his hand. One of the employees goes "HEY" and takes the guitar from him like he was going to steal it. By this time the street was blorping around in wavy bumps, and we hung on to street signs so that we didn't fall into a crack in the earth in a way that did not communicate that I grew up with these earthquakes.

We did not bond with the store employees beyond "wow, holy shit," and I don't remember whether we went back inside to see the body count, but at any rate we went to an Arby's down the street because it was the first decompression site that caught our eye, and it was still always blander than I want it to be. Then to a liquor store, where I bought a bottle of Brass Monkey because that was the first time I'd ever seen it for sale and I was 21½ and why not impulse buy for a special occasion, and then I sat on my porch and drank it for the rest of the evening. It wasn't very good.

A housemate and I went to see the Cypress a day or few later and took some pictures. I still have friends who are friends with him, I wonder if he has them.
posted by rhizome at 8:55 PM on October 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

the street was blorping around in wavy bumps,

I was just a kid, in the backseat of my dad's car somewhere in San Jose, and yeah, that's a perfect description of what it was like in that part of the bay area - slow rollers that made the whole world go blorpy.

Some USGS pictures of the aftermath, sorted by region.
posted by muddgirl at 10:19 PM on October 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

My family's intersection with Loma Prieta became a serious long game of tragedy over decades that I won't recount here, for fear of permanently bringing the thread down, but needless to say, this is never gonna have good associations for me.
posted by mykescipark at 11:05 PM on October 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

My family had just moved to San Jose. I was watching the game when everything went shaky and dark. My mom was scared and we talked about what to do as the quake progressed, and then it stopped. I helped a friend try to find his cat, and the next day at school they warned us not to be flippant or jokey about the quake because kids had probably lost family.
posted by migurski at 11:12 PM on October 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I graduated from UCSC in 1987 and still had tons of friends in Santa Cruz while I was in Los Angeles. That was truly devastating and yes, the town has changed a lot, in particular ways that I don't love.

I still miss it.
posted by allthinky at 6:35 AM on October 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Me too! I graduated from UCSC in 1987, and I worked at the Boardwalk. I also lived in an apartment right next to the retirement home. But by the time of the earthquake I wasn't there. It was awful.
posted by chocolatetiara at 7:01 AM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was working late in Santa Clara when the building, which was on wheels, started sliding back and fourth and i slid under my desk to wait it out. I joined other commuters on the way home, where the craziest effect was that the fridge's door had swung open and had thrown eggs all over the kitchen.

The collapse of the San Francisco freeway didn't reach us till the next day.
posted by path at 8:14 AM on October 18, 2019

The Vivariam (before it moved to Berkeley), the reptile store where the staff most resembled what they sold, in the days before ubiquitous tattoos and piercings, was located next to the Cypress freeway. It was evacuated for something like a month.

No one knows what happened to the over 1000 baby snakes that escaped ....
posted by mbo at 2:04 PM on October 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

No one knows what happened to the over 1000 baby snakes that escaped ....

I think there's a couple right near you.
posted by rhizome at 3:57 PM on October 19, 2019

I was in the 1989 earthquake and have stories just like everyone else.


People are not putting things in perspective. It was 6.9 on the Richter scale. The scale is logarithmic, which means a 7.9 earthquake, which is about what the San Francisco 1906 Earthquake was, is 10 times stronger. 10 times!

The land masses have been moving past each about 2" a year other along the earthquake faults with a couple of exceptions--in places near San Francisco and near Los Angeles there has been no movement. What that means is that pressure has been building up like a tight rubber band about to break.

People going by their memories of the 1989 earthquake and the 1994 Northridge quake near LA have no idea what may be coming.

It is true that we can't predict when an earthquake will come, but the USGS will say that these areas are overdue for a significant earthquake. prepared.
posted by eye of newt at 4:20 PM on October 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Note that two days ago California just started an earthquake alert system that will send alerts to cell phones. Depending on how far you are from the epicenter, this can give up to 20 seconds of warning before it hits your location.
posted by eye of newt at 5:14 PM on October 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have to say, I don't really need to know when an earthquake starts, it's when it ends that's the important part. I was realizing this week that every earthquake can be the big one, you don't know when it starts just how long it's going to go on for. It's exciting!
posted by rhizome at 6:50 PM on October 19, 2019

In the bottom level of San Jose's Tech Museum, there's this platfom you can stand on, which will shake to exactly match different actual earthquakes.

They won't start the platform shaking unless everyone is holding on to something because with some of these earthquakes, if you aren't holding on, it will definitely knock you off your feet. So if you are in California and get the earthquake alarm on your phone, it is probably best to at least get on your hands and knees, and get underneath a nearby desk or table to prevent flying debris from conking you in the head.
posted by eye of newt at 6:03 PM on October 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

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