The Moment 15 Seconds Made Its Mark in the Bay Area

On October 17, 1989 at 5:04 PM, the streets of San Francisco were rattled by the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake. While the quake shook for 15 seconds, confusion and fear swept through the Bay Area.

Game 3 of the World Series between the Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants came to a standstill at Candlestick Park. A section of the Bay Bridge and Nimitz Freeway collapsed. Many buildings tumbled and were unsafe.

1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, Bay Bridge.
1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake
Earthquake damage to building & street,Marina district, Divisadero Street

For Bill Teahan, SFPUC City Distribution Division Operations Manager, he recalled the events from 30 years ago.

“It was kind of a blur, now that I look back on it. It happened so quickly. I jumped up and braced myself where I was at,” said Teahan. “The shaking stopped and I left the building where I was situated. Every time, for years after, the earth moved or a car went by and shook the building, it brought me back to that moment.”

1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake
1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

He said civilians became first responders that day. “There was no one inside. Fire, police, military were all outside helping people,” said Teahan. “It was surreal. SFPUC personnel are all disaster service workers. Our team knew to report in after making sure their family and property were safe. We were prepared to respond.”

Teahan said that within an hour after quake, he was in the operations yard ready to respond. He shared how this has impacted his work at the SFPUC and shaped the City’s efforts to ensure infrastructure is seismically resilient.