Good timing is everything.
Timing makes all the difference in sports, comedy routines, midway games, near misses and earthquakes.
In 1989, when the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake struck south of San Francisco at 5:04 PM, timing mattered a great deal to tens of thousands of people when freeways, bridges, buildings, pipelines and highways built on silty soils collapsed all over the bay area.
At 5:04 PM on October 17, 1989, five cars were lined up outside a five story brick building on Townsend street in San Francisco, their occupants waiting for loved ones to emerge from the handsome brick structure. Within seconds, all were crushed.
A section of the Bay Bridge collapsed, killing one person. A portion of the Cypress Freeway in Oakland pancaked, crushing cars and killing 41 occupants. The damage to San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway would cause it’s dismantling. Gas from ruptured pipelines fed large fires in San Francisco’s Marina District
Twenty five years later, the harvest had come early to the Napa Valley. Visitors from around the world had enjoyed a long day of wine tasting, fine art and dining, touring and spa treatments. Hotels, bed and breakfasts and restaurants were booked.
At 3:20 AM on Sunday, August 24, 2014, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake rocked Napa Valley’s visitors and residents awake. In Napa’s historic district, bricks, concrete and glass rained onto empty sidewalks and streets. Foundations cracked. Historic buildings separated. Furniture, glassware, and TVs upended and crashed. Thousands of bottles of wine fell to their destruction. Cupboard contents went into free fall. Homes, empty businesses, and cars were damaged. Portions of Napa’s historic downtown lay in ruins. Over two hundred were treated at Queen of the Valley Hospital. Three were very seriously injured. But there was no loss of life.
At 3:20 AM, it was too early for winery workers to be tending the massive wine barrels and casks that were hurled helter-skelter to the ground, thankfully injuring no one.
Centered on a tributary of the San Andreas Fault, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, 22 times more powerful than the South Napa earthquake of August 24, 2014, struck at 5:04 PM shaking a huge urban area. The 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta, caused 3757 injuries and 63 deaths, the latter primarily due to collapsing freeway structures at rush hour. There was 6 billion in property damage.
In Napa’s wine country, we are counting irreplaceable losses. Reference wines, rare vintages, grand historic structures and many homes, some damaged beyond repair. Missing pets. Lost jobs. Injuries, both physical and emotional. Treasured belongings. Now even scarcer housing, Economic and personal losses that some will be unable to surmount.
Yet in the most chaotic moments, Napa Valley’s citizens, its friends, neighbors and workers rushed in to guide strangers to safety, shore up sagging structures, share food and water, shelter and personal items, find lost pets, quiet jangled nerves, donate food, money and expertise, and to offer the needed comfort of caring and companionship.
And our city and county government, along with utilities and neighboring municipalities restored power in record time, quickly repaired water, gas and sewer lines, opened shelters, cordoned off unsafe areas, inspected buildings and kept us informed.
Mother Earth was good to us. There was no better time for her to have relieved pressure at a fault line than at 3:20 AM on a Sunday morning.
Still, many are hurting. And, we have many miles to go before we sleep.