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Tahoe Nugget #66:

Centennial Anniversary of the 1906 S.F. Earthquake (4 Photos)
April 18, 2006

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake, a disaster that still ranks as one of the most destructive seismic events in U.S. history. San Francisco is no stranger to seismic activity, but the violent 7.8-magnitude temblor that rocked residents on that Wednesday morning 100 years ago was no ordinary quake. It shook most of California, parts of western Nevada and southern Oregon, and spiked seismographs as far away as Germany and Japan.

The epicenter of the quake, centered west of San Francisco, sent shock waves north and south along the San Andreas fault at speeds up to 13,000 miles per hour. When the seismic energy hit San Francisco, it tore the city apart. The quake and subsequent firestorm killed an estimated 5,000 people and caused more than half a billion dollars in property losses (1906 dollars).

Pipelines that carried water to the city fractured. When fires broke out, the San Francisco Fire Department was virtually helpless. For three days an urban wildfire leapfrogged from neighborhood to neighborhood destroying more than four square miles of the city's metropolitan area.

As the situation grew more desperate, buildings were torched and dynamited in an effort to "back-fire" the raging firestorm. But the firemen, inexperienced in the use of explosives, hesitated to demolish a broad enough area and their initial efforts to halt the spreading maelstrom failed. Finally the fire department made a stand against the raging inferno at Van Ness Avenue. Row after row of expensive homes were destroyed in the attempt, but it worked and the advancing fire finally stalled.

By April 21, three and a half days after the earthquake, the fire was out. For 100 years the official toll from this disaster was only 478 people. Civic boosters and business promoters downplayed the impact of the quake in order to encourage as much rebuilding investment capital as quickly as possible. In fact, in the Museum of the City of San Francisco, the 1906 panoramic photograph on display has been retouched to highlight the fires and diminish structural damage caused by the quake. For this year's centennial recognition of the 1906 quake, however, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has finally agreed to raise the official death toll to between 3,000 to 6,000 people.

Thousands lost their lives in the disaster, but as the editor of Sunset magazine noted, "The care of the refugees first for each other, and then for their pets, was a noticeable feature. Dogs, cats, canary birds, parrots and monkeys were all most carefully cherished and protected while more material treasure was lost sight of."

Photo #1: The day after the earthquake the shaking had stopped, but the firestorm continued to consume the city.
Photo #2: The April 18, 1906, Oakland Tribune headline says it all.
Photo #3: Despite the disaster, these women don't seem too upset.
Photo #4: Not only looters were being shot. Several men were killed by soldiers for "insulting women."

Nugget #66 A 1906 SF quake fire sized

Nugget #66 B 1906 S.F. quake headline pg 1sized

Nugget #66 C SF quake women posing sized

Nugget #66 D SF quake 4-19-06 shot headline sized

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