Video of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and rescue work
December 27, 2010 10:08 PM   Subscribe

Video produced by the California Highway Patrol of the 7.1 1989 San Francisco Bay Area earthquake and the rescue attempts that followed. It focuses on the Bay Bridge and the Cypress collapse. This video has some intense footage, including much that I'd never seen of the rescue efforts.

Includes brief footage of bodies being pulled from wreckage.

From (previously)
posted by gingerbeer (22 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Via the SFBayBridge's twitter account, where the bridge gets very personal about the earthquake.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:12 PM on December 27, 2010

I was 14 and playing Legend of Zelda on my NES with the World Series pregame on the radio and all of a sudden it was like the floor dropped out from under me. No, wait, the floor DID drop out from under me and then jolted back up. My mom was at work in the city. It took at least an hour to get her on the phone and to get a picture on my TV and then I saw the Bay Bridge. "Mom," I said. "The Bay Bridge, a piece of it collapsed." "Oh, John, don't joke. That's horrible. Please, not right now." "No really, Mom. It's just - it broke. The bridge broke." I went around the house and placed all the lamps on their sides so that if an aftershock hit, they wouldn't break. That footage of the Cyprus actually coming down is chilling. Between the Loma Prieta and the Oakland fire a couple years later, the Bay Area had a bad run there for awhile.
posted by incessant at 10:29 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm astonished at the number of ways people made to get to the collapsed portion of the Cypress, and to get people out.
posted by rtha at 10:30 PM on December 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Via the SFBayBridge's twitter account

Clicking that link has led me to discover that all sorts of public works and landmarks in the area have Twitter accounts. (I'm particularly amused by the Embarcadero Freeway.)
posted by asterix at 10:44 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

What amazed me at the time about the freeway rescues is that the rescuers were people that most of the commuters would have avoided. it took courage to go in and risk injury to themselves.

I lived far from the Bay Area by then but I had the word series on. One of the fires that started was in the Marina district. I got the Mini map out and pinpointed the EXACT location of the fire, using the news film, (aerial, I believe from a helicopter.) and my knowlege of the landmarks and my Muni map , 30 minutes before the news people
knew. When we lived in San Francisco my kids and my friends called me 'The Human Seismograph' I was very accurate about earthquake magnitudes.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:48 PM on December 27, 2010

Clicking that link has led me to discover that all sorts of public works and landmarks in the area have Twitter accounts.

This may be the strangest twist in my reality that I've experienced without chemical assistance in decades, maybe ever.
posted by hippybear at 10:58 PM on December 27, 2010

That was just gut-wrenching. I still remember when I lived in LA and watched the endless footage from the Cypress Freeway collapse, and there are images in that video I remember and they still chill me to the bone. I can't believe I moved to SF only a few months after the quake. What was I thinking?
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:59 PM on December 27, 2010

asterix: "5Via the SFBayBridge's twitter account

Clicking that link has led me to discover that all sorts of public works and landmarks in the area have Twitter accounts. (I'm particularly amused by the Embarcadero Freeway.

Agreed. SutroTVTower. Aukland HarbourBridge. GGBridge. EmbarcarderoFWY.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:07 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Including a foul-mouthed Alcatraz.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:18 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was in the 6th grade, reading a book at home while my mom fitted my sister for her Halloween costume. My dad was on the road as a salesman, and I was scared spitless that he'd been caught in this somehow...oh, how the cell phones have changed our lives since. My friend's dad was stuck in the transbay tunnel on BART for HOURS before he could get home. I still remember bookcases toppling over, spilling their contents everywhere; Mom lost most of her good china & crystal. We were incredibly lucky--the house sustained minimal damage, but for the next two or three days, my sister and I camped on the couch in the family room through the aftershocks listening to Wendy Tokuda & Dave McElhattan on the was comforting.

Infrastructure projects aren't bad investments, you know?!?
posted by smirkette at 11:28 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Great, terrible find. You got me reading about the freeway collapse and I found this detailed link reconstructed mostly from fire department logs.
posted by serazin at 12:58 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

The section of freeway called the Cypress Structure was a death trap even before the earthquake. There were no entries or exits for quite a stretch, and no shoulder. If there was a car stopped or a fender-bender it easily became a pile-up. Good riddance to that thing, and I'm not even touching on what it meant socially and economically.

Also, regarding the woman who drove into the collapsed bridge section, she wasn't deliberately attempting to jump the gap, she most likely didn't see it till it was too late. I know the guy who was driving in the truck right behind her car (in the dark jacket guiding the helicopter down), and he said that they were permitted to drive onto the upper deck by someone in authority. He told me that if he hadn't seen this woman's car fall he might've been the one to crash. I think everyone was pretty scared and just trying to get home, and it was a matter of bad information; you can hear the radio announcer say that the bridge section went into the water, which wasn't true either. Just like with 9/11, there were false rumors flying around that first night. The local tv stations even went dark for a little while, till they got generators going.

Like smirkette, l slept on the couch downstairs for several nights.
posted by tula at 1:25 AM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, regarding the woman who drove into the collapsed bridge section, she wasn't deliberately attempting to jump the gap, she most likely didn't see it till it was too late. I know the guy who was driving in the truck right behind her car (in the dark jacket guiding the helicopter down), and he said that they were permitted to drive onto the upper deck by someone in authority.

Confirmed by the surviving brother, more or less:

Anamafi [a Tongan-American, who had just picked up her brother at the airport] followed the near-panicked herd of cars onto the top deck of the bridge, where everyone thought they would be safe, and then an emergency worker waved her toward Oakland. About 50 cars rolled east nearly at once -- none of them knowing a section of the top deck had collapsed just ahead of them, creating a yawning, 50-foot gap in the road.

Everyone else managed to stop just in time, including a tourist couple who started videotaping the hole. Their camera was still rolling -- capturing images broadcast worldwide in the days to come -- when Anamafi's car hit the breach at 40 mph, bounced off the fallen section of roadway and slammed into the opposite side of the hole, hanging there by its front end....

Money from a lawsuit against the state over the way the traffic emergency on the bridge was handled, settled in 1991, has made Lesisita's family comfortable, and so his pre-quake labors at carpentry and banking are over. -- from an SFGate retrospective

posted by dhartung at 2:01 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

This brought back a lot of memories for me. Not just of the earthquake, but of that time period and all the tragedies and landmarks in my mind since. Life before cell phones. When I used to take gymnastics and ballet and didn't yet understand the maze of freeways that connected the bay area (even though I'd been across them all countless times). Just a few years prior, the Challenger exploded. I was 9 years old and that was the first time I'd experienced a community disaster. It opened my awareness and connected me to the world in a way that I had never known before. Loma Prieta did that too, but this time with the realization that what was a singular event when I was 9 was something I'd have to now reframe, as these things were bound to happen again and again. Tragedies in ways that I would never be able to imagine. And they'd scale with my understanding of the world and all the past behind me.

I think the part of this video that gets me the most is when they peel back the top of a crushed car and you see a young woman's lifeless but rigid hand, pressed up against where the roof once was, as if she instinctively tried to push back against the world caving in.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:16 AM on December 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

Wow, that was really neat to watch. I remember seeing pictures and news footage at the time, but I lived really far away so it was all very abstract.
posted by Forktine at 6:13 AM on December 28, 2010

That was the first Internet experience of a disaster for me -- the first time a remote cataclysm became immediately personal, happening in real time, as opposed to something far away and out of my local sphere. As the mother of a very young child, in graduate school, and cut off from much immediate social interaction, I spent a lot of time on the Star Trek forum of CompuServe, and thus though I was on the East Coast a large number of my closest friends were affected by the quake. We were all exchanging messages trying to figure out if our friends were still alive. One by one they checked in to say they were all right. A common experience now, but unusual for me back then.
posted by Peach at 6:35 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was four or five, in the hospital for pneumonia, and watching the World Series from under my oxygen tent. Mom was in a cot next to me. All the sudden, the video feed just craps out, and mom, thinking something was wrong with the feed, changed it off that station, and onto another. That's when the earthquake news started rolling in, and I had seen the origination of it live on TV.

I was sort of scared.
posted by deezil at 7:14 AM on December 28, 2010

The epicenter of this quake was much closer to Watsonville, about 50 miles away from SF. I was living in Santa Cruz (about 15 miles away from Watsonville) at the time, and a house next to mine blew up that evening after filling with natural gas. I ran to a friend's house and stayed the night, with no electricity, phones, or water. Pipes had burst all over the city and there was sewage in the water. A few blocks away from the house I was staying in, a coffeeshop had collapsed, trapping people who died slowly over the next day and a half before everyone could get through the rubble to them; the worst part was that rescuers could hear the trapped people, but couldn't get to them. When the electricity came back on about three days after the quake, we got the first news that the freeways had collapsed in the Bay Area. I remember watching live footage as rescuers cut through the body of a mother in a crushed car in order to reach her little son, trapped next to her. The aftershocks kept going for months after the initial earthquake, and one by one, almost all the buildings and landmarks I'd been familiar with fell down or were demolished. It was not a good time.
posted by TrixieBiltmore at 9:00 AM on December 28, 2010

incessant: "That footage of the Cyprus actually coming down is chilling."

I don't think I've ever seen that footage either, and I got goosebumps when it came up.

I was 13 at the time and had just moved to California about 3 years earlier. I remember turning out of my friends driveway on my 12 speed and turning to go up the street, when suddenly my left knee brushed the pavement, but I was still riding my bike. That seemed pretty odd, but I just figured I was a kid trying to ride a bike that was too big for him. As I rode up the street people were running out of their houses. Another friend of mine was yelling something about his swimming pool. We ran to the back of his house to watch his swimming pool empty itself. If you've ever tried to make huge waves in a pool with an inner tube you can imagine how impressive 5'+ waves of water can be in someone's backyard.
posted by Big_B at 9:08 AM on December 28, 2010

Cool post. I had moved to SF in March of 89 and this was my first earthquake. There was no power in my neighborhood immediately afterwards and for several days. My neighbor had a radio and we sat around using candles while we listened to what was happening. It was very surreal to only hear what was happening in the City. I watch very little television news but for big news events, it helps 'to see' what's going on. I'd never seen much of this footage before.

Side note - I now keep a fully stocked earthquake kit. We had nothing when this hit, no flashlight, little food and almost no cash. We found candles that a previous tenant had left under the sink. I was glad our neighbor had a radio. Stores, the few that were open in my hood were little mom and pop corner places, would only take cash since there was no power for credit card/atm machines.
posted by shoesietart at 12:36 PM on December 28, 2010

I'd never seen most of that footage before. I was living just a few miles away from the Cypress Structure at the time, and we were without power for around three days afterwards so no TV until it was all over.

I drove home across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge about a half-hour after the quake and saw a real, honest-to-God mushroom cloud over San Francisco from all of the fires. That's about the scariest thing I've ever seen.
posted by Daddio at 4:55 PM on December 28, 2010

I was in an audio supply store that was about to have a big sale; people were lined up outside. I knew the owner and he had let me in. When the quake hit it sounded like a freight train inside the two story building I was in. The whole thing started to shake. If I hadn't been hanging onto a metal support pole I would have been thrown off my feet. When the quake stopped about 17 seconds later, the people standing around my immediate area all looked at each other, in shock. I heard later that 100-200# audio cabinets had been thrown 4-5 feet, into the center of the room. Everyone waiting in line, outside the store, disappeared. I drove up 280, it was weirdly vacant, with the occasional buckle in the pavement. I felt as in a daze for the next 2-3 days. It was the only time in my life when I felt I couldn't trust beneath my feet - quite an experience. To this day, I think about that quake occasionally, when stuck under a bridge or other structure, in San Francisco, waiting for a light to change.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:45 AM on December 29, 2010

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