Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Spires: Surviving an earthquake

Spires: Surviving an earthquake

  • 0

I had some friends that lived in California back in 1989 near San Francisco when they experienced an earthquake.

On Oct. 17, 1989, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit the San Francisco Bay Area killing 67 people and causing more than $5 billion in damages. Despite the fact that the disaster was one of the most powerful and destructive quakes ever to hit a populated area of the United States, the death toll was relatively small. The disaster is known as both the San Francisco-Oakland earthquake and the Loma Prieta earthquake because it was centered near Loma Prieta Peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

If you remember the Bay Area was buzzing about baseball. The Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants had reached the World Series. The third game of the series was scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. Just prior to the game, at 5:04 p.m., with live cameras on the field, a magnitude 6.9 quake rocked the Bay region. The quake was centered approximately 60 miles south of San Francisco in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

My friends were at that game along with about 50,000 fans when it started. I remember them telling me how the ground shook and how scared they were that the stadium could come down on them.

I especially remember seeing the collapse of a section of the double-deck Nimitz Freeway in Oakland where the largest number of casualties for the event occurred. Vehicles were crushed and ran off the freeway when it collapsed.

My friends were lucky, because they didn’t happen to be in the wrong place at the right time. That by the way is how you survive an earthquake, by not being in the middle of falling debris.

In September of 2006, sitting in my recliner in my living room at my home on Lake Seminole (near Jack Wingate’s Lodge), I felt the house shake.

At the time, I thought it had been from a sonic boom, which occasionally occurred when the fighter jets from Eglin AFB or Tyndall Naval Air Station used Lake Seminole as a geographical marker while on maneuvers.

I waited for a few seconds, expecting the loud “boom” that usually followed, but none occurred.

Instead, I learned later there had been a 5.8 earthquake on the moment magnitude scale and its epicenter had been located about 250 miles south in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.

I figured the shock wave had followed the Apalachicola River to the lake.

So, I can say I survived an earthquake because I was not in the wrong place at the right time.

I’ve thought about earthquakes over the last few days and how to survive one, primarily because 2020 certainly qualifies as a seismic or earth-moving experience.

To be honest, I just hope I can survive it as unscathed as I did in the last earthquake I experienced.

Byron Spires is a retired newspaper editor. He has written dozens of short stories and serials in the Havana Herald. He recently published “The Curious Life of Marci Bell: Part I,” in a series of three books. You can contact him at

Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

As we witness so many major events, good and bad, that have been taking place during this time in history, it’s easy to wonder why we have bee…

While growing up around a diverse group of our population, it was easy to see that every nationality has a specialness about them that disting…

The Daytona Beach News-Journal on the Florida Legislature’s priorities as its annual session convenes:

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

News Alert