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This article provides links to various websites that cover the two most recent large earthquakes in the recent memory of the folks of San Francisco Bay Area. Most remember the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and there are videos on youtube that can supplement the information here. The 1906 earthquake was over a hundred years ago and there are photos and links to websites that can help someone follow the Earthqauke trail.The United States Geological Survey has a research and Earthquake monitoring facility in Menlo Park, Ca which is about 30 miles South of San Francisco. You can learn more about their research and visit them online and at their websitE: USGS Menlo Park
There are two major earthquakes in recent memory in the San Francisco Bay area, the quake of 1906 and that of 1989. Details of both are covered at a virtual museum at this website
For the 1906 EarthquakE: 1906 Virtual Museum
For the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989 which affected San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Cruz among other communities
Here is another link that you may find helpful and when you come to SF please plan it so that you can do this tour -- it is from SF City guides and they have a free walking tour of the sites affected -- this tour is not that frequent so perhaps you can contact the guide via the site and get a lot more info.
Here is a site which talks about being prepared
Earthquake Trail at Point Reyes, about 30 minutes north of SF. The following link has a photo of a fence you can see there that is now separated by about 20 feet, due to the 1906 earthquake.
California Academy of Sciences (in Golden Gate Park as a bonus....) "Earthquake" https:/… . If you're traveling about the SF Bay Area, in the Point Reyes National Seashore there's a short and easy walk called the "Earthquake Trail" which has signage explaining some of the physical effects of the 1906 earthquake.
When you're making your rounds in San Francisco, make sure to spend moment marveling over City Hall, not from the beauty of the original building or the quality of the post Loma-Prieta earthquake renovation, but because behind the scenes as part of the renovation the entire building was jacked up and placed on base isolators, which some architects and engineers consider to be the state of the art in earthquake protection. Some information on base isolators and their application at both San Francisco and Oakland's City Hall here http://tinyurl.com/cfwq7jz . The new San Francisco General Hospital, a 7 story above ground, 2 stories below structure which will serve as the cornerstone for the City's trauma and emergency medical services is being built on the next generation of multiphasic base isolators -- a very short video of the system can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4VXftVBksY . Naturally the new SF Bay Bridge which is nearing completion is a monument to earthquake planning.
Most everything south of Market and west to Van Ness was destroyed in the fire that ensued after the 1906 EQ (called "shake and bake"). There is an interesting book called "After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006: Rephotographing the San Francisco EQ and Fire." (Available on Amazon)
So almost everything downtown and around Union Square is post-1906 construction. Pre 1906 construction can be found in Pacific Heights, Western Addition, the Castro, the Haight and other neighborhoods futher from downtown.
San Franciscans (all Californians really) are aware of EQs and know how to prepare for them.
There are also two EQ cabins that have been moved to the Presidio which are occasionally open but you can peek in the windows and see how people lived for months, if not a year, after the 1906 EQ.
There are also some outcroppings of serpentine, which is rock that is pulled up from the earth's crust via tectonics, that can be seen in the city -- most especially at Inspiration Point at the Presidio. www.foundsf.org
of books of geologic field trips that describe specific areas along the San Andreas and other faults that are accessible and where people can see escarpments, horizontal displacement, and offsets in manmade objects like buildings or pavement. “Geologic Trips – San Francisco and the Bay Area” by Ted Konigsmark and “Finding Fault in California – an Earthquake Tourist’s Guide” by Susan Hough. Maybe you can find them when you get to California. Interestingly, neither author is a seismologist; he is an oil geologist and she is an oceanographer.
The San Andreas Fault is a long one, running much of the length of California from Tomales (to-mah-les) Bay (north of San Francisco) to the southern Sierra Nevada. It follows the contours of the state, which of course follows the shape of the plates. Other faults branch off it, including a couple in the Bay Area that are predicted to have catastrophic results when their next major events happen. The San Andreas goes through the Point Reyes area (the 1906 epicenter); Daly City (just south of S.F. where a 1957 quake was the Bay Area’s biggest from 1906 until 1989); along the S.F. Peninsula where it created San Andreas and Crystal Springs lakes; the Santa Cruz Mountains (epicenter of the 1989 quake that many experienced); and the Diablo Range (location of Hollister, San Juan Bautista, and Pinnacles National Monument, which all have interesting seismic associations; especially, do some research on the Pinnacles).
It continues south among the Diablo, Gabilan, and Coast ranges, through a petroleum-rich area that includes parts of Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Kern counties. A minor mountain range called the Temblor Range is here. In the last 2-3 decades there have been destructive earthquakes in Coalinga and Paso Robles. In the hamlet of Parkfield, the U.S.G.S. has monitoring stations and has been observing quake activity for decades as a possible precursor of big quakes elsewhere. One of the best places to actually see the fault is Carrizo Plains National Monument, which is way out of the area of your trip. But you can find lots of info about it on line. It is entirely undeveloped and the natural landscape is totally visible; aerial views clearly show the fault.
As the fault bends southeast, it skirts the south edge of the Sierra Nevada along one of California’s few transverse ranges, the Tehachapi (te-hatch-a-pea) Mountains. One of the major quakes occurred in this area in the 1850s at a place called Tejon (tay-hohn), which fortunately was sparsely populated. Even east of the Sierra Nevada, there is seismic activity, from faults that are either separate from the San Andreas or connected with it by transverse faults through the Tehachapis. The Long Valley Caldera is the leftovers from an ancient volcanic event and still generates geothermal activity from about Bridgeport south. One of California’s less known but biggest quakes was in 1872 at the town of Lone Pine, west of Death Valley, on the Owens Valley Fault. There was no Richter scale then, but it was felt from Canada to Mexico and east as far as Utah. It’s been rated IX on the Modified Mercalli Scale. Fortunately, like Tejon, it had a very small population.
There is a lot of intriguing seismic activity in California. The San Andreas Fault and San Francisco are the best known parts of it, but it’s a much bigger story.