2014 A to Z Challenge: E is for Earthquake

It’s Day Five of the A to Z Challenge.

What the challenge is all about: During the month of April, over 2,000 bloggers are posting daily on topics that correspond to each letter of the alphabet. My posts will revolve around the research elements that have informed my new historical fantasy, Famine. (<– Shameless book plug. Hint-hint-hint.)


Next up: E is for Earthquake (The Great San Francisco Earthquake, that is.)

The earthquake struck at approximately 5:12am on April 6, 1906. A smaller initial shock that lasted 25-30 seconds was followed by a larger shock that rattled Northern California (and beyond) for 45 to 60 long seconds. While damage occurred in neighboring Northern California cities, the damage was greatest in San Francisco due to the uncontrolled fires that broke out in its wake. (Both water and gas lines ruptured.) Almost 30,000 buildings were destroyed (the majority by fire) and approximately 225,000 residents (of 400,000 total residents) were left homeless. While scientists can’t agree on the true magnitude of the quake, they estimate it to have been between 7.7 and 8.3 on the Richter scale. Compared to the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, the 1906 temblor released roughly 30 times more energy that that more recent quake. While the 1989 quake’s surface rupture measure approximately 25 miles, the ’06 rupture stretched 296 miles. The average offset of the ground (the amount it shifted at the surface rupture) was 8-12 feet, but in some areas it moved as far at 28 feet, and the earthquake shifted the course of the Salinas River by over six miles.

The damage was astonishing:

See photos and read more info about the quake here.

Aftershocks rattled the city. Gas lines failed. Explosions concussed the air and more bricks and concrete plummeted from buildings.

Spirals of smoke made the rising sun a demon’s fiery eye as Bartholomew fought through the tide of refugees fleeing the obliterated areas south of Market Street. Many plumes originated from the direction where he’d left his ward. It was as if Lucifer himself had smashed the city and, being unsatisfied with his efforts, had opened his Inferno to blast the remains of San Francisco off the face of the Earth.

Thanks for stopping by. Please take a few minutes to check out some of the other A to Z bloggers, leave comments, and see what everyone else has to say about E.


  • I would be terrified to be too close to an earthquake! Shiver. In UK we have rare very slight rumbles, but nothing terrifying.
    PS: AWESOME cover! Love love it


    • Monica Enderle Pierce

      Thank you, Shah. (I’m sorry I’m so late to respond; been busy publishing the book!)
      Most of the time you think your head’s gone wonky when an earthquake happens. (Few of them are large enough to be noticeable.) But growing up in Los Angeles, I went through a few that made us scramble for safety. My hubby’s family lives in Tornado Alley and they think we’re crazy to stay in earthquake country (we’re in Seattle now), but I figure the big ones only roll around every 25 years or so. (Tornadoes are a yearly occurrence!)
      And I’m glad you like the Famine cover. I’m so pleased with how it turned out. 😀 (And I think the book’s pretty good too.)

  • Great post–we’ve had a few rumbles in Ohio, but nothing of that magnitude–love the description of it in your excerpt. Scary stuff!

    • Monica Enderle Pierce

      I grew up in Los Angeles and have been through my fair share (including the Northridge quake — kept throwing Mr. P and I back into bed and made the staircase undulate). The ’06 S.F. quake woulda had the populace hugging the ground to keep from bouncing. THAT was a long, rough jolt.

  • Stephanie Scott

    Wow, the amount of damage is astonishing. How devastating.

    Stopping by from the A to Z Challenge! Here’s my A to Z blog post

    • Monica Enderle Pierce

      The quake was massive, but the fire really did the worst of it. Thanks for stopping and commenting, Stephanie. (Sorry for the delayed response!)