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Chapter C. The Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989 - Landslides

June 1, 1998

Central California, in the vicinity of San Francisco and Monterey Bays, has a history of fatal and damaging landslides, triggered by heavy rainfall, coastal and stream erosion, construction activity, and earthquakes. The great 1906 San Francisco earthquake (MS=8.2-8.3) generated more than 10,000 landslides throughout an area of 32,000 km2; these landslides killed at least 11 people and caused substantial damage to buildings, roads, railroads, and other civil works. Smaller numbers of landslides, which caused more localized damage, have also been reported from at least 20 other earthquakes that have occurred in the San Francisco Bay-Monterey Bay region since 1838. Conditions that make this region particularly susceptible to landslides include steep and rugged topography, weak rock and soil materials, seasonally heavy rainfall, and active seismicity. Given these conditions and history, it was no surprise that the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake generated thousands of landslides throughout the region. Landslides caused one fatality and damaged at least 200 residences, numerous roads, and many other structures. Direct damage from landslides probably exceeded $30 million; additional, indirect economic losses were caused by long-term landslide blockage of two major highways and by delays in rebuilding brought about by concern over the potential long-term instability of some earthquake-damaged slopes.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1998
Title Chapter C. The Loma Prieta, California, Earthquake of October 17, 1989 - Landslides
DOI 10.3133/pp1551C
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Professional Paper
Series Number 1551
Index ID pp1551C
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Earthquake Hazards Program, Earthquake Science Center