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The Forest of Nisene Marks

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Well the votes are in and I’m planning on just heading straight on down the list. First up: The Forest of Nisene Marks: better known as that one sinister place that killed 63 people, injured 3700, destroyed dozens of towns, and issued this little critique of 1950s freeway design:  Yup, in the heart of this idyllic woodland likes Loma Prieta, The Dark Hill, where no one knew there was a major earthquake fault until the middle of a SF Giants/Oakland A's World Series Game 3. It was October 17, 1989. It was a 6.9 on the Richter scale, and wikipedia says that it only lasted for 15 seconds, but Joe, who was in Hollister at the time, informs me that the super strong shaking there lasted for over a minute. Before the quake, there had been intense interest in forecasting earthquakes on the San Andreas fault, and the scientists missed this one, though they tried. (it occurred on a ‘previously undiscovered’ fault) Earthquake prediction still remains a very hotly studied, and elusively infuriating science, especially since vulcanologists have gotten their act together so well and are at the academic equivalent of winning 12-0 in the bottom of the 8th. The quake did have two recognized foreshocks though, enough that UC Santa Cruz had sent some instruments up to take more precise recordings on a known ‘dark spot’ on the San Andreas fault. There was even a death in one of the aftershocks, and Wiki’s writeup is one of the worst examples of passive voice in writing that I’ve seen in a while: “one man died when he exited a building through a window and fell five stories” no word whether the victim was one Mr. Wile E. Coyote.    

A couple of interesting phenomena occurred during the quake, 

Liquefaction - soil turned into quicksand. If you shake a jar with big pebbles and little pebbles and sand, things tend to start sorting themselves. A little bit of water in the soil turns into a big puddle of quicksand. Oakland and San Francisco have several areas of city that are built on rocks that were dumped in the bay. The jar was shook. Bad things happened. 

Sand Volcanoes - This is a little water driven geyser of sand that spurts up from the ground as soil is undergoing the liquefaction process. As all the little particles shake down and compact, the water is put under enormous pressure and spurts up and out of the ground, carrying the small particles with it and accelerating the process. Very cool. In SF, these ran so deep that they brought up debris from the 1906 earthquake.  

Landslides - These are pretty self explanatory. 4000 are estimated to have occurred in Nisene Marks Park during the quake. A big one entirely blocked Highway 17 from the Bay Area to Santa Cruz. Took weeks to clear and repair.  

Magnetic Disturbances & Infrasound - Before the earthquake, for 12 days straight, a magnetometer in Corralitos, only a few miles from the epicenter, recorded a substantial increase in super low frequency sound, far lower than even whales and elephants can hear.  This increased abruptly on the day of the quake, peaking at about 3 hours before the quake. Unfortunately for Team Seismologist, this neat little warning has not been repeatable in subsequent earthquake prediction studies and now the data is thought to be due to poor instrument calibration. 

Soft-Story Building Collapse - this is the exceedingly popular building design where there’s apartments/offices up top and shops and lots of glass and things down below instead of a shear wall. These are at a much higher risk of collapse. Not a great idea. Manhattan, think about it. Previously undiscovered fault. Hipster coffee shops. In the 1989 quake, 160,000 apartments were destroyed by this phenomenon.  

Aftershocks - There were 51 subsequent earthquakes with at least a 3.0 magnitude in the following 24 hours. This caused most everyone to not want to be inside. So everyone went camping. On the sidewalk. Including my mother-in-law. Her family coaxed her back inside after a few days.

Your Freeway Was Built By Idiots - Namely, an outfit that went by the name of Grove, Wilson, Shepard and Kruge Contractors, Address 400 Madison Ave. NY, NY, inactive since 1976. It was the only double-decker in California when it opened. In California, space considerations have usually never gotten in the way of a good 14 lane freeway. It was also built on rocks dumped into the bay silt.  This resulted in 42 of the 63 earthquake deaths, as you may imagine from the photographs. The earthquake happened during rush hour too, there were 165,000 cars on this freeway when the quake hit.  Here’s a human interest story to give the flavor of the event: 

Your Bay Bridge Is Like Little Baby - The San Francisco - Oakland Bay bridge has seen a lot of grief in its time. Sailors trying to fly planes. DWA Ships.   No Worries, It Just Scraped the Paint.  Dunno Why But It’s Broken Now.  See We Fixed It With Plan C Anyhow, this double decker bridge also broke during the earthquake, but did the hinge thing rather than the pancake thing. It also popped off a ton of super-important rivets, and we don’t make ‘em like that anymore. The bridge itself moved 7 inches in the quake.  SF and Oakland finally got around to finishing the retrofit in 2013, only 24 years later. I refuse to drive this bridge. There’s lots of perfectly good bridges. More scenic. Other ones.  

Oakland A’s Fans Eternally Disgruntled - To this day, the A’s guys are mad that they lost the 1989 world series, and contend that if only the earthquake hadn’t upset their concentration, the Giants wouldn’t have swept them 4-0. They will talk about this at length. Just bring it up and sit back. It’s better than watching a baseball game. The Giants are immune to earthquake distraction, apparently. One of their many superpowers. 

This week in Chateau Grief, Xander causes an earthquake too.  

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I was in the south bay area, and it was totally different for me. I just happened to be leaving work and walking across a wide parking lot when it hit. 15 seconds of rolling back and forth and dead silence. Not a sound. No ominous smoke rising in the distance. Nothing. Very creepy. I didn't know of any damage anywhere until I watched the news. I only lost a few dishes myself at home.




"To this day, the A’s guys are mad that they lost the 1989 world series, and contend that if only the earthquake hadn’t upset their concentration,".


Totally bull. "Fake news" as they like to say today. I'm a life-long south bay resident and major A's fan, and I can verify that is a fabricated story. The quake affected both teams equally during the "Battle of the Bay". We all were affected. The 3rd and 4th games were played 10 days after the quake.



As far as your friend Joe saying it lasted longer for him, that may very well be the case:

QUOTE: "The duration of the heaviest shaking in the Santa Cruz Mountains was about 15 seconds, but strong ground motion recordings revealed that the duration of shaking was not uniform throughout the affected area (due to different types and thicknesses of soil). At sites with rocky terrain, the duration was shorter and the shaking was much less intense, and at locations with unconsolidated soil (like the Marina District in San Francisco or the Cypress Street Viaduct in Oakland) the intensity of the shaking was more severe and lasted longer."

chateaugrief's avatar

thanks for the first person account!

PerfectButler's avatar
art200000's avatar
Would you kidly tell me what tools you used for this artwork and what programme? :) 
Sereida-Arts's avatar
Love the golden tones in the painting :D
RichardEly's avatar
I worked in downtown Oakland in 1989. I left work early that day and was driving north on the I-980 frontage road when the quake hit. The road moved in a strange back-and-forth rotating manner and there was a long rumble as of distant thunder as the Cypress freeway structure came down. A huge white cloud that I initially took be fog spread inland from the collapse area - I later realized it was concrete dust. Casualties were far fewer than they would have been any other day at this time because so many people had left work early to catch the game. I missed seeing a high bookcase fall on my desk and chair.
chateaugrief's avatar
amazing story from that day!  so many people saved by baseball too...what an experience! 
RichardEly's avatar
I really enjoyed the earthquake, it was my first big one. I'm a geologist and my specialty back then was evaluating earthquake hazards to dams, nuclear power plants and the like. Finally got to experience the subject of my professional work. 
chateaugrief's avatar
Ahh very very cool!...let's see...Anderson and Coyote Dam are the ones that come to mind as earthquake problem areas in South Bay where I am.  Total dam failure equal to San Jose under 18 feet of water last I heard?  I've always been fascinated by this sort of geology/engineering/meteorology crossover.  They still haven't finished fixing up Oroville dam yet, have they?   
RichardEly's avatar
The spillway repair was nearly done last I looked. They ran low on money when the dam was constructed and cut corners. Saved a bundle on that one!. The big hazard is Lake Almanor on the Feather River. It is a hydraulic fill dam (very prone to liquefaction) located close to an active fault. PG&E has been studying it for decades. There was a M5.7 earthquake very the near the dam in 2013. 

The USGS report is here: pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/o…
chateaugrief's avatar
so am I seeing this right, Almanor feeds directly into Oroville, no wonder they're worried! goodness! a million acre feet...that is a lot of water.  think of the wave action forces on poor beleaguered Oroville Dam! can't help but wonder...
HeySani's avatar
this is perfect, I really love it. I was born on a farm an this just reminds me of my childhood. 
chateaugrief's avatar
Thank you!  what a wonderful childhood that sounds like!  minus the major earthquake, but still!  
ty-r-upp's avatar
Your work looks as if this were being done with fine hair brushes and a spectrum of paints at yourdisposal.

These are breathtaking!
chateaugrief's avatar
Thanks for the nice comment!
MeyFlory's avatar
PlatinumFeather2002's avatar
I love how detailed this looks! ^^
Great job! :)
chaos-tika's avatar
😍😍😍😍
DynastyWarriorsJin's avatar
Wow..it's wonderful!
edinabaltas's avatar
TheRealVenomy's avatar
I'd love to be there now... :-)
NikoletaPopova's avatar
I like it very much :)
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