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The 1900's
Earthquakes
The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906



The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.67

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    magnitude, tectonic, recognition, eyewitness, re-named, terrorize, observer, atom, reconstruction, redwood, rupture, firebreak, original, destruction, toll, remainder
     content words:    San Francisco, World War II, Los Angeles, United States, Tomales-Portola Fault, San Andreas Fault, Andreas Fault, North American, Emma M., California Academy


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The Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
By Joyce Furstenau
  

1     A major earthquake struck San Francisco, California on Wednesday, April 18, 1906, at 5:12 A.M. The magnitude of the earthquake was between 7.8 and 8.25 measured by the Richter scale. This means it was considered a major earthquake. In comparison, the atom bomb that hit Nagasaki in World War II measured 5.0 on the same scale. The shaking was felt from Oregon to Los Angeles. It was felt inland as far as central Nevada. This earthquake is still considered one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the United States.
 
2     A rupture along the Tomales-Portola Fault line caused the earthquake. It was later re-named the San Andreas Fault line. The San Andreas Fault is a tectonic plate boundary line between the Pacific and North American plates. The eruption ran along the fault line for a distance of 296 miles. The death toll estimates range from 700 to more than 3,000 people killed. This is the greatest loss of life from a natural disaster in California's history. The estimated damage was $400,000,000 in 1906 dollars.
 
3     Trees were uprooted and broken off. People standing on the streets were thrown to the ground. Big buildings crumpled and split apart like crushed biscuits. One observer reported, "345 earthquake cracks running in all directions in less than a mile." People and animals disappeared in an instant into deep holes opened by the quake. All telephone and telegraph service was cut off. The greatest destruction came from the fires ignited by the earthquake. Fires burned for four days and nights. It destroyed more than 490 city blocks. Fires were caused by ruptured gas mains and broken electrical wires. The earthquake knocked out water mains as well. Most buildings had to be left to burn. The only way firefighters thought to stop the raging fires was by creating a firebreak. They attempted to use dynamite to create these firebreaks. None of the firefighters were trained in the use of dynamite. The end result was the destruction of even more buildings. Explosions occurred all day long. These explosions continued to terrorize the fleeing people.

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