25 Years Later: The legacy of the Loma Prieta quake at Stanford
When the Loma Prieta earthquake shook campus 25 years ago it damaged campus structures and forced students and classes to relocate. Once they'd cleared the rubble, faculty and students took up the challenge of devising better methods for understanding the physics of earthquakes, and designing buildings that could withstand the powerful forces.
At the close of a busy workday in the fall of 1989, a fault line buried miles beneath the quiet heart of a redwood forest near Santa Cruz ruptured, generating devastating seismic waves that sped across the Bay Area. The 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake, which occurred 25 years ago on Oct. 17, ended decades of seismic tranquility in the region and was a wakeup call to the region to prepare for even more devastating shocks in the future.
The quake disrupted a World Series Game, collapsed a double-deck freeway in Oakland and tumbled an upper section of the Bay Bridge. Ultimately the quake killed more than 60 people and caused more than $5 billion in damages. At Stanford, more than 200 campus structures were damaged, some beyond repair. Building restoration took more than a decade to complete and cost nearly $160 million. While there were no deaths or serious injuries on campus, there were close calls. Concrete falling from the Old Chemistry Building, for example, crushed a Ford Granada just seconds after its driver, a chemistry graduate student, left the car.
The 1989 temblor provoked an artistic response on campus that took the form of a 320-foot-long sculpture constructed from stones gathered from university buildings destroyed by the quake. It also spurred a new wave of earthquake research, some of it conducted by geophysicists in the university's School of Earth Sciences, which has led to fresh insights about earthquakes and their aftershocks, as well as more accurate methods for pinpointing their epicenters.
From the Stanford Report archive: