San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Snapshots: The Morning of April 18, 1906
"I guess no one had time to think what had happened, at least I didn’t. I just held on to [the] side of the bed to keep from falling out and ducked my head in the pillow, for I was so scared I couldn’t even yell." - Lloyd Head
At 5:13 AM on April 18, 1906, San Francisco residents were rudely awakened by convulsive shudders in the ground beneath them. An earthquake of between 7.8 and 8.25 on the richter scale emerged from the San Andreas fault line. The horizontal displacement of the fault was felt from Southern Oregon to Southern California and inland to central Nevada, but San Francisco, located nearest to the epicenter, recieved the heaviest blow.
The morning of the temblor was a terrible one. Fred J. Hewitt, a local reporter, commented on his experience during the earthquake while he was standing at the corner of Golden Gate and Larkin streets, "Around me the huge buildings, looming up more terrible because of the queer dance they were performing wobbled and veered. Crash followed crash and resounded on all sides. Screeches rent the air as terrified humanity streamed out into the open in agony of despair" (San Francisco Examiner, April 20, 1906).
After the greatest shocks were over, residents scrambled out of their beds and homes, seeking to assess the damage, obtain supplies, and get others out of the rubble of the broken buildings. Many homes and office buildings were badly ruined, while others seemed barely touched. While the first tremors caused millions of dollars of damage to the city, they did little to compare to the destruction that was to come. Housewives and cooks lit fires for breakfast, supposing their chimneys and stoves to be intact. But soon broken gas valves, overturned wood stoves and deteriorated electrical lines sparked several small fires across the urban area.
San Francisco Earthquake Snapshots, Utah State University Special Collections and Archives, P0346, Box 1, no. 14, 22, 25.
Charles Kendrick, "The Great Disaster", The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco, Last Modified 2015, Accessed December 29, 2015, http://www.sfmuseum.org/.
Lloyd Head, "One Boy's Experience: A Member of the Roosevelt Boys’ Club writes of His Experience During and After the Great Earthquake", The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco, Last Modified 2015, Accessed December 29, 2015, http://www.sfmuseum.org/.