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About one minute was all it took took to rock San Francisco to its core. Let’s explore the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, how it felt, and how the city recovered and revived itself in the aftermath.

The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

The San Andreas Fault is a huge fault line that spans (a fault is a crack in Earth’s bedrock) more than 800 miles through California. When a fault ruptures, the bedrock on either side of the crack can move, causing an earthquake, and that’s precisely what happened on the morning of April 18, 1906.At 5:12 a.

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m., about 296 miles of the San Andreas Fault running right along San Francisco ruptured, creating one of the most devastating earthquakes in recent history. There were only two major tremors, or shaking events, that lasted a total of about 1 minute, but they caused massive destruction. Of the 400,000 San Franciscans at the time, about 3,000 died and 225,000 were left homeless.

The earthquake destroyed homes and other buildings throughout San Francisco.
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Experiencing the Earthquake

The epicenter, or center point of the earthquake, was just 2 miles west of San Francisco in the Pacific Ocean and could be felt for 100 miles away.

It began with a light rumble followed by the first tremor that shook San Franciscans for about 25 seconds. Then, there was a 10-second calm before the second tremor began. This one was much stronger and lasted about 40 seconds.

People described it as the Earth swaying, and all around, buildings tilted, crumbled and fell. By the end of the quake, 28,000 buildings had collapsed.

After the earthquake, fires broke out throughout the city.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, people temporarily lived in tents.
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The damage cost San Francisco $400 million, which is equal to more than $8 billion today. But the city rebuilt at a surprising speed, and by 1915, the city invited the world to come visit for an international exposition to celebrate it reconstruction. The city also learned important lessons from the 1906 earthquake about the design of its buildings, and today, many techniques are implemented to prevent buildings from crumbling and to reduce destruction in the case of an earthquake.

Lesson Summary

At 5:12 a.

m on April 18, 1906, one of the most significant earthquakes in history rocked the city of San Francisco. It caused 3,000 deaths, left 225,000 homeless and caused $400 million in damages. Thanks to relief efforts and motivation to rebuild, the city celebrated its reconstruction less than 10 years later.

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