SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Even for veteran reporters, memories of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake still remain fresh in their minds 30 years after the deadly temblor rocked the Bay Area.
On that fateful day, former KPIX 5 reporter Barbara Rodgers was part of the station’s team coverage at the Candlestick Park, covering fans arriving for Game 3 of the Bay Bridge World Series.
Rodgers was supposed to go on vacation the next day. She had been covering the Giants’ season, and went with the team to Chicago in the playoffs with the Cubs, traveling with the team on their plane.
Former anchor Wendy Tokuda was there, too; field anchoring in Candlestick’s parking lot with veteran news and sports photographer Al Lopez.
“I was doing an interview with a fan and just as she was telling us how excited she was, we heard this roar and we both looked up because we thought it was a plane going overheard, that’s what it sounded like,” said Rogers. “But as soon as we looked up, we looked down at our feet, because we could feel the stadium actually shaking and we looked at each other and said ‘Earthquake!’”
Former KPIX 5 anchor and reporter Kate Kelly was on assignment near the Lefty O’Doul Bridge. When the quake hit, she wondered if the car had a flat or the bridge was going up. But then her eyes cast on a big 18-wheeler truck which was dramatically tilting back and forth, making a horrible sound as it smashed and broke a street lamp.
She knew immediately it was a severe quake, and the crew headed back to the station, traveling down the Embarcadero.
At that time, the double-decker freeway along the Embarcadero, Interstate 480, took drivers to and from the Bay Bridge, from Battery and Broadway Streets.
As Kelly was driving down the Embarcadero, she saw clouds of dust in the air, and concrete falling from the elevated freeway. People had streamed out of the Ferry Building, and were all pointing to the structure. Kelly and her photographer stayed in the lane furthest away from freeway, fearing it might fall.
“I kept a mental notebook of everything that I was witnessing, so I could inform our newsroom,” said Kelly.
The deadly magnitude 6.9 quake had jolted the Bay Area. It lasted about 15 seconds.
“It did shake, I mean it! It really shook,” said Rodgers on that day as she debriefed Tokuda in the Candlestick parking lot.
“We were out in the parking lot and I remember watching those microwaves on top of the trucks start to swing … and the concrete was going like this,” said Tokuda, waving her hands.
On the Nimitz Freeway, Interstate 880, former KPIX 5 reporter Sherry Hu and her crew including photographer were on assignment in Oakland. They were tempted to swing by Jack London Square where former reporter KPIX 5 Doug Murphy was going to cover the crowd watching the game on large screen televisions.
They would need to turn off on the Cypress Freeway – another elevated portion of I-880 that cut through West Oakland – and would drop them off to see Murphy.
At the last moment, they decided to get to work, and skipped taking the turnoff.
“As soon as we passed the turnoff to the Cypress Freeway, the truck started rolling like this and bouncing and the freeway looked like it was undulating,” remembered Hu.
Loma Prieta ended decades of earthquake tranquility in the Bay Area. The last major quake was in the region was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
The good news: “People really pulled together,” said Tokuda.
The big question: Are you ready for the next big one? Here are some links to help you: