Archive for the ‘North Bay’ Category


I was standing beside the wood-framed bus stop on Novato Blvd. opposite Denny’s at the time. At that time, I was an employee of Novato Park and Rec., and was not a big fan of skateboarders, who frequented the parks to use the public wooden benches as their personal obstacle course. So, without even turning around to look, I said to myself: “Great. Now those skatebastards have figured out a way to skate on top of the wooden support walls at bus stops.” I then felt my body sway a bit, and immediately noticed that the nearby light pole/s were swaying 2-3 inches as well, and. . . not a skateboarder in sight-what I heard, which my mind had incorrectly perceived to be a skateboarder, was actually the bus stop frame being “tweaked” by the quake.


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I lived in Marin County, just north of San Francisco for most of the 1980′s. I don’t remember feeling many if any earthquakes until the October 17 1989 Loma Prieta quake.

At the time I was working at the Good Earth Natural Foods store in Fairfax on Bolinas Road, and doing housecleaning jobs all over Marin.

This particular day started out normally, I did my morning job and then went by the store (GE). While I was there I started getting this real ‘hinky feeling’, for no reason I could explain I called and cancelled my afternoon house cleaning job down in Sausalito (just north of the Golden Gate Bridge). Then I proceeded to buy large bottles of water, candles, matches, easy to prepare food stuff. I felt like I was in a daze, not quite all there. I drove down to the Post Office in Fairfax and ran into a couple friends, we both commented on a ‘strange day feeling’ and went about our business.

I drove to San Anselmo, where I lived at the time. I parked my 1968 VW bus in the driveway of the house where I lived, which wasn’t something I usually did. (The owner didn’t like it.) My room was the lower floor of a 2 story brick older home.

I remember setting the bags on the floor in the middle of the room and I sat down there too. This was not the ‘normal’ routine. Nothing about the day felt normal.

The next thing I remember was hearing a very loud ‘CRACK’ sound, my first thought was that something in the adjacent garage had been knocked over, but before I could get up the TV which was on a wimpy tv rack was on my back. I got that back in place and realized what was going on.

I opened the door to the driveway and watched as my bus bounced up and down, back to front – over and over again. Imagine what a rug looks like if you shake it out, the ripples in it.. the earth was rippling under my feet.

I looked up at Mt Baldy and the trees were doing hulus.. I had never seen anything like this before.

It seemed to go on for a very long time.

I went in and turned on the TV.. and got the news feed coming from the World Series at Candlestick Park in SF..

In a daze it became apparent this was a big quake.

Outside in my neighborhood people were screaming and running with babes in arms..where to I don’t know or understand. My landlord called and said, “Don’t let the old man next door turn off our gas or we won’t get it back for weeks.” I did stop him from turning the gas off. There was really little damage in San Anselmo, or Marin, a great shaking up but nothing like what was happening in the city, or really further south in the Santa Cruz area, where this quake’s epicenter was at.

I became glued to the tv watching all the horrors of pancaked houses, freeways, and bridges collapse. For days.

More than anything, I started to pay attention to this ‘feeling’ I had had that day. I call it my earthquake radar, and many times I have felt it before a quake hits, sometimes I get a ‘hinky’ feeling days in advance of something big. Mainly I need to get out of the way and pay attention to it.. it is right more times than not.

By Bobbi Kensler Wisby (reprinted from her own blog)

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The day was October 17, 1989. Rena and I had been married for two short years. At the time I was a painter. On this particular day I was working with a crew of three on an old historic high rise Victorian in the heritage district of downtown Vallejo. The time was 5:04 P.M. and it was quitting time. We had just climbed down from three tiers of scaffolding when I heard a low rumble from within the house that quickly turned into a crashing roar.  It sounded like four football teams running wildly inside, banging against the walls and windows. As we drove home the reports began to flood the airwaves with news of an earthquake. Even though we knew there had been an earthquake, we had absolutely no idea of the devastation that was to become the infamous Loma Prieta Earthquake of ’89.

An entire portion of Interstate 880’s overpass, near the Cypress street turnoff in Oakland, had not only collapsed, but 67 people would lose their lives, 3,757 would be injured and more than 12,00 people would become homeless before it was all over. The unsuspecting motorist never imagined they would not live to see the next day as they innocently drove that now famous portion of I-80. Rumors begin to trickle in of the tragic freeway death toll. We all held our breath waiting for confirmation of the sheer devastation we hoped was only a rumor. As I walked into our 2-bedroom apartment at 928 Marin Street #2, on the corner of Florida and Marin Street, the first thing I did was turn on the television. To my shock and horror, graphic images of twisted metal, mangled buildings and rising death tolls were pouring in from every available news camera.  Immediately, we all knew that what we heard was not just rumors, but brutal hash reality.

As I slumped down in the corner of our old Victorian style apartment overlooking downtown Vallejo, it seemed as if I were suffocated by all the horrific news being piped in on every air way and mode of communication possible. Then I realized that even though history had just been re-written and life would never be the same for thousands, I began to think of all the things my wife and I had to praise God for.  Even in spite of all the things we never will understand, there is plenty that we can still praise God for every day of our lives, even in the face of tragic circumstances, because it is His love and grace that sustains those of us who survived. As I prayed for those still trapped under tons of concrete and rubble not knowing that to a great degree their fate was already sealed, I concluded my prayer with the following realization as I spoke these words to my heavenly Father on their behalf:

Countless victims suddenly realized as they sat helpless in their vehicles, their inescapable fate was sealed, and they were about to meet an untimely death; I imagined in my heart their last words may have sounded something like this:

The end is near though it may seem
no time to cry, no time to dream
No time to wonder what could have been
as time draws closer to an end

I must live each day as it comes
because yesterday is gone
and tomorrow isn’t promised to me

As I grow older and life flies by
I suddenly realize
‘No Time To Cry’

By Van Waller

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Loma Prieta

My husband had recently retired; we had sold our home and were temporarily renting a waterfront flat in Sausalito as we prepared to move to our new home in Mexico. I had just boxed up my grandma’s china, prior to auctioning the Welsh dresser where we’d displayed it. We were watching the World Series on TV when we felt the quake.

We’d both lived in the Bay Area for decades, and experienced many quakes. We knew this one was big. Our flat, which had survived the 1906 quake, swayed and creaked violently, and for a long time. Some pictures and objects fell. We made guesses about the strength and location of the epicenter. The TV went blank, and the power went off. Our cat freaked out, and we captured and cuddled her. We found a battery radio and turned on the news. One of the first things we heard was that “The Bay Bridge has collapsed.”

We had a clear view of the span from our deck: We could see it still standing. We got our binoculars, and then saw the collapsed lane. Soon, neighbors we did not know started wandering down the beach in front of the deck, and everyone was chatting excitedly.

We heard that the Marina district was on fire, but couldn’t see that part of the city from our place, so we walked down the block to the Sausalito
Boardwalk in front of what was then Sally Stanford’s restaurant. We could see the flames, and worried about a friend who lived there.

Since we were moving to a hot climate, we were already in the process of clearing out our closets. The next day, we filled up the car with warm bedding and warm clothes: I recall there were many drop off points for this type of donation. Because the Bay Bridge was closed, traffic in Marin was horrific. We felt grateful not to be commuting anymore. At first everyone was courteous on the roads and in public, but as the weeks progressed, people seemed to lose their patience with the congestion and inconvenience.

We felt many, many aftershocks; as boaters, we kind of got used to that, like rolling on the sea. A couple of weeks later we flew down to Mexico to oversee progress on our house; we stayed in a rented apartment that had twin beds. One morning I woke up on the floor: I had a vivid dream of an earthquake, and had literally bounced off the bed. I think I was so used to moving earth, my dream re-created it.

One of our former employees had been at Candlestick during the World Series game, but no one we knew was seriously impacted by the quake. We were extremely offended when people suggested we were moving away because of the quake. We were, after all, moving to the Hurricane Latitudes.

I have always remained happy to have been here to experience Loma Prieta, tragic as it was. I am among many who actively enjoy feeling the earth move, as we did this week at work. I feel resentful when there is a quake and I somehow don’t feel it, like the 6.2 today [January 9] in Eureka. I like to be reminded of the power of nature: Despite human depredation on our environment, there are some things we cannot change or predict.

By Jane Firstenfeld

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My husband and I lived in Antioch and worked in San Leandro at the time. He picked me up from work at around 4: 53pm and we headed home. We went through Castro Valley and were making the turn from Castro Valley Blvd. onto Crow Canyon Rd. when we noticed a police car parked across the intersection. The officer was trying to get into his car and had one foot in and left arm on top of open door. He and his car were violently swaying from side to side, and up and down. We were wondering what he was doing when all of a sudden we felt like we had 4 flat tires as we straightened out from the turn and headed down Crow Canyon Rd. I said “something is going on” and turned on the radio.

That is when we heard the news about the quake. As we drove home through Danville, and all the towns along the way, we saw lots of people outside, and lots of dust! Didn’t see any real damage. We turned on the tv when we got home and were amazed over the damage! Our relatives from back east could not get through on the phones and were freaking out.

We did not go to work for a few days until all of the freeway overpasses were inspected. Our condo had some cracks in the outside stucco, but nothing else. Nothing even fell over inside!

By Linda Parker-Fedak


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“I’m feeling dizzy,” I told Eder my next door neighbor. I stood outside his tool shed in his backyard, mock machine gun in one hand looking down the sloping driveway. I think I was seven. It’s strange because I came from a baseball family, and I wasn’t watching the World Series. As a matter of fact I didn’t become a hardcore Giants fan until about tenth grade. I was young, and I was playing war next door with my friend.

“Just come in the shed, it’s base, it’s fine,” he said.

I listened to my wise friend because after all he was a year older. I stepped into the dark tool shed, “It’s in here too,” I told him.

“Don’t worry about it,” he replied, and so we began to battle whoever the hell we were battling.

I remember not being able to shake the feeling. Being in Napa, up in the North Bay, we didn’t get it quite as bad as some of the surrounding areas, and certainly the cities. I don’t remember the ground shaking, it was almost as if it was just tilting, or as if I was on a merry go round.

At the time I was too young, I was scared of roller coasters, but it was that feeling that I had. When you get off a roller coaster and you have adrenaline pumping and your eyes are trying to catch up with your brain. That light headedness, equilibrium slightly askew.

I gave up the war, surrendered and walked further into his backyard. Our older brothers and some of the neighborhood kids were concentrated on a tackle football game they had going. I still could feel something wasn’t right so I asked my brother who must’ve been twelve at the time what was going on.

“It’s an earthquake,” he said with a beaming smile. So simple, kid didn’t have a care in the world, he said it as if earthquakes were as common as a fall shower, and how he knew it so quickly, like he was a geologist. It was eerie. I can still see that smile.

I ran to my house and asked my mom what was going on, but she shut me up with a “shh” and continued listening to the radio. I remember being a little upset that she had shut me up so quickly, but then again my feelings got hurt rather easily when I was young, and I guess they still do.

I was excited to go to school the next day, and see if anyone else felt it. I didn’t know the magnitude partly because I was distant from the epicenter, partly because I was just a kid.

So while others were pancaked by tons of concrete on unforgiving expressways, and others fought fires that tore through neighborhoods, and the will and the heart of a people, and city was tested. I just played.


For those of you new to the Bay Area I do have another quake story for you, that illustrates more what a quake is like.

I didn’t feel one since Loma Prieta until the year 2000 when I believe a 5.4 centered out of Yountville, California rocked the valley like a grape crusher. Ironically enough, I had been in San Francisco earlier that day on a date at the Giants game. It was a grand day, and that night about 2 in the morning it happened. I was watching a stand up show on Comedy Central, and the TV flickered, and this demonic roar could be heard. It was not so much startling, or scary, but downright disturbing. Supernatural even. This ghoulish blue-green light flashed in my windows like those goddamn aliens were on the loose. People said it was from gasses being released and even rich residents on the tops of valley hills said they could see the light in the valley below. The earth moved like a wave. I’ve never been in a tornado, or a hurricane, but those disasters seem explainable. Just really bad storms, and I don’t mean to downplay them at all, because they are really, really bad storms.

I tell quake virgins though, when you know something’s so solid, when it’s been there all you’re life and you’ve almost never noticed it. The ground, so solid I would venture a guess that most people would consider it one of the most solid things they know of. Now imagine that solidness, that ground you’ve walked on every day of your life, becoming a literal wave. Moving in ways you might think are impossible, and when it does happen you’re at a loss for words and reasoning.

My bed went up and down like I was a fisherman in the North Sea, rocking and rolling in the earthly swells. The roar of nature, spitting gas, and destroying homes.

When it was over, I didn’t want to move. I wanted to go to the doorway because that’s one of the techniques I learned in grade school. I was in high school now, but I was home alone and I felt very vulnerable. I remember staring at the ceiling when this was happening waiting for the roof to cave in on my face. I was paralyzed with fear.

I didn’t want to get up because I thought it’d be like one of those cartoons where if I stepped on the ground I would disturb the earth and it would start all over again. Finally I went to the doorframe, and a small aftershock took place, just a second of small shaking. The house was a mess, and I cut my foot on a piece of glass, and I remember thinking I would turn on the TV and see Frisco in absolute shambles. I thought this was the “Big One.”

I remember calling my dad who was in Tahoe with my mom, but it was one of their first nights at the cabin and so when I called, they couldn’t find the phone. I remember leaving a message on my dads cell phone whom at the time didn’t know how to access his messages. I told him I thought the “Big One” hit but that I was okay, and I remember the waver in my voice, and knew I was truly shook up.

My buddy and I drove around town early that morning surveying the damage, and tailed a news van for a good hour and half who eventually noticed we were following them and lost us in Yountville which is a story in itself, considering Yountville’s the size of my thumbnail.

By Tyler Brown

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