Loma Prieta Earthquake Stories

My wife and I and our year-and-a-half son were living in a Volkswagen camper. We were getting ready to head for Santa Cruz but the engine needed some attention, so while she prepared some lunch I got up under the engine hatch and did my thing. Suddenly the bus started bouncing up and down, banging against my head as I struggled my way out and prepared to scold Stephen for playing so rough in the camper. Then I noticed the old black oak over our head was shaking violently and realized what was happening.

Doyle park is a small but pretty park in the middle of Santa Rosa, a huge lawn surrounded by oaks with a creek running down the other side. I quickly scooped up my son and ran out from under the trees and falling branches, and to this day I can still see the foot-high waves coming across the grass toward us.

We changed our minds and went to the northern Sierra Nevada instead. A trip to Santa Cruz didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. More importantly, in the long run, I’d been trying to convince my wife to move to Hawaii and she was balking, listing all the horrible things that can happen to people living on an island. After the quake it only took me a few days to convince her and we left for Maui on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day.

Several days later, a water spout came ashore in the middle of a violent storm and passed directly over our campground, ripping our tent off our heads and throwing it into the ocean, so we moved on to the Big Island. After a couple of months in Kona, we moved to the other side of the island near Kalapana. As we arrived at a friends, he told me to jump in the truck to go help evacuate Kalapana, which was being covered in lava. Since then, I’ve managed to avoid further natural disasters. I was beginning to get worried.

Gary Terhune February 27, 2010

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The Loma Prieta earthquake, which occurred on October 17, 1989, is the most recent large earthquake to strike the San Francisco Bay Area. Many individuals and families have stories and memories related to this damaging earthquake. To help us preserve these precious stories and learn more about the earthquake, please share your story and memories with us.

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