Fact: “Violent Earthquake Strikes Northern California… Even Bigger Quake Predicted Along San Andreas Fault.” That was a newspaper headline following the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 18, 1989. It was a day like any other in Northern California until 5:04 p.m. Then the most powerful earthquake since 1906 hit the area. It registered 7.1 on the Richter scale, causing a span of the Bay Bridge to collapse and a section of the 880 Freeway to crumble. It killed 63 people.
Fiction (maybe): My life changed the moment that earthquake hit. I was headin’ out to Game 3 of the World Series. Boy, was I pumped! One of my buddies at work couldn’t use his ticket and I was the lucky one he gave it to. I had to work a bit late and sure was ticked off about that, bein’ I had this ticket and all. The last thing I wanted was to be late for my first World Series baseball game, you know. It was rush hour and the traffic sure was heavy. Seemed like a Friday, but I’m not really sure what day it was. Just seemed like a Friday. Traffic was goin’ nowhere fast. But folks was still leanin’ on their horns as if it would make a difference. I remember I was comin’ onto the Bay Bridge and – my god, I still don’t believe what I was seein’ – cars just started disappearin’ in front of me. People kept on drivin’ and the bridge was gone. Gone, I tell you! I still wake up sweatin’, hearin’ the screams and the chaos like it’s happenin’ right now. That was ten months ago.
Fact: The San Andreas Fault is 800 miles long and extends from the Salton Sea in the south to Cape Mendocino in the north. Blocks on opposite sides of the San Andreas Fault move horizontally. A person standing on one side of the fault and looking across at the opposite side would see the other side move to the right. During the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, roads, fences, and rows of trees and bushes that crossed the fault were offset several yards, and the road across the head of Tomales Bay was offset almost 21 feet, the maximum offset recorded.
The sections that produce great earthquakes remain “locked” and quiet over a hundred or more years while strain builds up; then, in great lurches, the strain is released, producing great earthquakes. Other stretches of the fault, however, accommodate movement by constant creep. The creeping sections do not generate earthquakes of the magnitude seen on the “locked” sections. The total accumulated displacement from earthquakes and creep is at least 350 miles along the San Andreas Fault since it came into being 15-20 million years ago. Surveying shows a drift at the rate of about two inches per year, the rate our fingernails grow.
Fiction: I thank my lucky stars I didn’t drive off that bridge ten months back. If I’d left work just one minute earlier I might have been among those forty-two unfortunates who died when that bridge came tumblin’ down. Just a matter of timin’ is all. Why them and not me? Sometimes I feel like I’m livin’ on borrowed time. Isn’t that how the expression goes?
After that close call back in October, I decided I’m not takin’ no more chances. I got out of that big city fast, let me tell you. That buddy I told you about – the one that gave me the World Series ticket I never got to use? Well he had this trailer he wasn’t usin’ no more. He was feelin’ kind of sorry for me, me bein’ such a wreck and all after the quake. He just gave it to me. He even hitched it up to his 4×4 and drove it and me out here to the salt flats where the San Andreas Fault cuts through. I feel much safer keepin’ an eye on it. I’m not exaggeratin’ when I say the ground out here never stops movin’! But at least there’s no bridges fallin’ down.
Folks back in town have been sayin’ a huge strip of land is bein’ sliced off North America along the San Andreas Fault, and I bet they’re right. So far, only Baja California has been sliced off, but you never know when this here salt flat becomes ocean front property. Mark my words: All of California west of the San Andreas Fault will be a long, narrow island just off the West Coast. People are goin’ to be clammerin’ to invest in future shoreline property along here.
So far, though, nobody’s ever come by, at least not ‘til this afternoon. I was busy with a stick markin’ off lots in the salt when this here city feller comes along with his camera. Introduced himself as William Huber. I thought he was wantin’ some of this here real estate – my first customer, so to speak. Strangest thing, though, he just asked if he could hang an “Office Space for Rent” sign on the trailer and take a picture of it. Didn’t even want me in the picture, just my trailer. Even asked me to leave the door open, just so. Strange feller. That hot California sun was beatin’ fiercely down. It probably got to him.