After so many years after the last earthquake in the area, the San Andreas Fault shifted so violently that earthquake resistant buildings were damaged or destroyed, and San Francisco was crippled. Around the Pacific, 2599 people lost their lives, and a further 50250 were injured. Damages from the earthquake and associated tsunami caused a record $844 billion in damages.
San Francisco is a major Californian city, situated on the San Andreas Fault line, which stretches up the West Coast of the US. On a normal day, there may be hundreds of small earthquakes along the fault line system, causing none to minor damages. However, when the fault line sticks, pressure builds, and the pressure is often released as a strong earthquake when the tension is released. But in this case, the pressure had been building up for a few years, where there were no earthquakes at all.
On July 16, 2028, Californian seismologists began receiving reports of strange animal behaviours in the area around San Francisco. Worms began to swarm from underground, and fish began to jump out of bowls. By August 10, cats were going missing in the local area, and dogs began to get aggressive. By the 12th the water levels in San Francisco Bay were decreasing, indicating that sufficient pressure was beginning to build up underground in the fault line system. Beginning on the evening of the 12th, earthquakes began to return to the area, with a 5.1 earthquake being recorded in the San Francisco Bay area at 5pm local time. Progressing through the following days, the quakes began to get more powerful, with an 8.1 foreshock being recorded on the 14th at 2am, and a 9.1 shock at 3:30am.
At 0422 hours on the 14th, a 300km stretch of the fault line slipped violently in the form of a 9.9 magnitude earthquake. In fact, the quake was so bad that even earthquake resistant buildings began to strain from the extreme pressures to stay upright, and several skyscrapers in the area began to topple over during the earthquake. 11 minutes later, the violent shaking stopped, but still worse was to come. Magnitude 9.2 shockwaves hit the Pacific Ocean, causing a 91 metre tsunami ot travel right across the Pacific Ocean, causing extreme damages in whichever areas that the waves hit. 5 minutes later, the first tsunami wave hit the San Francisco Bay coast, being recorded at 7 metres high, about the same time that a magnitude 9 aftershock hit the Sausalito area, causing additional damages there. 492 people were killed in San Francisco, with local damages reaching $517 billion. For a list of aftershocks related to the earthquake (magnitude 6+ only), see Here
On July 16th, local seismologists issued a press release, stating that a violent earthquake was imminent within the next few weeks. After the reports of unusual water levels in the San Francisco Bay area on the 12th, the USGS issued an earthquake warning to the San Francisco area, stating that the earthquake would likely be above magnitude 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale, and that it would occur within the next 72 hours in the Bay area. As a result of the alert being issued, millions of people along the coast were put under mandatory evacuations, as a tsunami was to be expected after the main quake hits.
After the tsunami had travelled around the Pacific Ocean, the death toll had risen to 2599, with the damage bill rising to $844 billion once the tsunamis had finished pounding the coasts several days later. Of the earthquake aftershocks that occurred, 180 exceeded magnitude 8, causing additional tsunamis over the coming days, 1400 exceeded magnitude 6, and 19240 exceeded magnitude 4 on the moment magnitude scale. The main earthquake was felt from Mexico, Alaska and the Great Lakes regions, just proving how violent the earthquake really was.
The earthquake was the costliest natural disaster on record, doing $844 billion in damages, beating the Tohuko earthquake of 2011, which caused $300 billion in damages. Also, the quake was the strongest on record, both globally and locally.