In remembrance of the Loma Prieta earthquake which happened 25 years ago Friday, on October 17, 1989 SFist will be devoting some special coverage to the historical record of the quake itself, and its aftermath, over the next several days.
It was still Cheryl Jennings' first year on the job at KGO-TV/ABC 7 she started working there in 1988, and here she is last year celebrating 25 years at the network when she appeared on screen at the news desk just 15 minutes after a 6.9-magnitude quake shook the entire Bay Area, stopped a World Series game, toppled several freeways, and knocked the power out at ABC 7's studio. Above, the raw footage from that night that ABC 7 posted today as Jennings begins coverage just as their power was restored.
It's fascinating to watch Jennings having to cover this enormous story as it's unfolding, off-the-cuff, and with complete, ridiculously professional composure. You'll hear her say that the quake disrupted the World Series game but that the game is "scheduled to start any moment now." Little did she know the extent of the damage (she didn't even know the Richter scale reading for the first 30 minutes of this broadcast), and that game play would be disrupted for a full 10 days.
At the 6:45 mark, you'll see Cheryl being utterly calm as the studio experiences an aftershock, and at the 8:40 mark you'll see the very first live chopper footage of the collapsed section of the Bay Bridge, and the official CHP instructions that everyone stuck on the lower deck of the eastern span please park, get out of their cars, and walk to Yerba Buena Island. At the 30:00 mark, you'll see a short interview with the Major League Baseball Commissioner announcing that the game was being postponed.
As it turned out, the World Series game that night probably saved a lot of lives. The timing of the game meant that thousands of people had left work early that October afternoon to go to bars or attend World Series parties, meaning that they weren't on the road at rush hour and were not injured on collapsed freeways though the earthquake struck just before the game began. In total, the death toll that day would be 63, 42 of whom were crushed by the collapsed upper deck of the Cypress Freeway in Oakland.