Did you know that of the United States’ most horrific natural disasters have occurred in the San Francisco area?
It’s a miracle San Francisco is still standing after all the death and destruction that has befallen the city thorough the years.
If you want to learn more about the history of natural disasters in San Francisco, as well as how to protect yourself in case of one, keep reading!
5 San Francisco Natural Disasters You Should Know About
San Francisco’s geography makes earthquakes a significant hazard for our city.
The Great Earthquake of 1906 is considered one of the biggest turning points in San Francisco’s history.
On April 18, 1906, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck the coast of Northern California and absolutely devastated San Francisco.
It is estimated that 80% of the city was destroyed by the earthquake and subsequent fires.
Over 3,000 people lost their lives that day.
Legend has it, many of these dead souls haven’t managed to find peace… And are still roaming the streets of San Francisco today.
The aftermath of this tragic event is one of the main reasons why San Francisco is considered one of the most haunted cities in the United States.
If you are coming to visit San Francisco (or considering a move), it’s very important to learn about earthquake preparedness beforehand.
- If you are inside, drop to the ground, find cover (under a sturdy piece of furniture) and stay there until the shaking stops. Stay away from windows or anything that could fall on you, such as light fixtures.
- If you are outside, move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
- If you are driving, stop as soon as (safely) possible and stay inside your car.
Earthquakes are not the only natural disasters that have befallen San Francisco over the years.
The earthquake of 1906 caused uncontrollable fires that damaged at least 4.7 square miles of San Francisco.
And it is far from the only time San Francisco has been ravaged by catastrophic fires.
During the height of the California Gold Rush, the San Francisco Fire of 1851 destroyed as much as three-quarters of the city.
It lasted for 10 hours and burned down at least 2,000 buildings.
Despite stronger regulations, fire safety is, and has always been, an issue for San Francisco residents.
- If you find yourself in a building during a fire, stay low to the ground.
- Keep one hand on the wall to prevent disorientation as you find your way out.
Tsunamis can be generated by a landslide or underwater earthquake.
Thankfully, most tsunamis that have hit the coast of California have been relatively small.
However, since San Francisco is prone to earthquakes, knowing how to act in the case of a tsunami is important.
A local tsunami generated by an earthquake can arrive as quickly as 10 to 15 minutes.
- If you are near the coast and feel an earthquake with strong shaking lasting a minute or more, follow the “drop, cover, hold” protocol.
- After the shaking stops, head to higher ground as quickly as possible.
4. Severe storms and flooding
While the historical accounts of storm damage are overshadowed by stories of fire and earthquakes, severe weather conditions have certainly contributed to San Francisco’s grim past.
One particularly nasty storm in 1995 achieved a maximum severity score in the Bay Area Storm Index (BASI) developed by Golden Gate Weather Services.
The unpredictability of San Francisco’s weather makes severe storms and flooding a very real possibility today.
On December 31, 2005, urban areas in California, including San Francisco, recorded 5-inch rainfall totals in 24 hours (a 9.2 on the BASI scale).
- If flooding occurs, move to higher ground as quickly as possible.
- If you come to an area that’s covered in water (especially fast-moving water), turn around immediately.
5. Extreme heat
Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can push the human body to its limits.
It usually gets pretty chilly in San Francisco after the fog rolls in, but we are no strangers to extreme heat.
While it may seem like one of the least dangerous natural disasters on this list, extreme heat killed 14 people in the Bay area in 2017.
During the Labor Day weekend, six people died in San Francisco alone.
While the heat waves don’t usually hit until September, temperatures in San Francisco rose to 100 degrees this June.
- If you are planning to visit San Francisco, remember to drink plenty of water – even if you don’t feel like it.
- Stay on the lowest floor (and out of the sunshine) if air conditioning is not available.
- Check on your pets frequently, and never leave them in a closed vehicle.
The Haunt Experience
A city that has seen as much death and destruction as San Francisco harbors many dark secrets.
Led by experienced San Francisco locals – Mary, Sebastian, and Iris – our Haunted San Francisco Ghost Tour will show you a different side of our beloved city… One that you are not likely to forget anytime soon.
Who knows, you might even run into a ghost or two!
Ready to discover the dark side of San Francisco?