On April 18, 1906, the San Francisco Bay Area was struck by a devastating earthquake, which remains one of the most significant natural disasters in American history. The earthquake and resulting fires destroyed over 80% of the city, leaving an estimated 225,000 people homeless and causing an estimated $400 million in damage, equivalent to over $10 billion in today’s dollars.
The earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7.9, struck just after 5:00 AM local time and lasted for about a minute. The earthquake caused widespread damage throughout the Bay Area, but the most significant damage was in San Francisco. The earthquake was followed by a series of fires that raged through the city, destroying buildings and homes that had survived the earthquake.
Following the disaster, government officials and civic leaders mobilized to rebuild the city. San Francisco mayor Eugene Schmitz, who had been in office for less than a year when the earthquake struck, declared a state of emergency and formed a committee to oversee the rebuilding effort. Mayor Schmitz described the situation in the city in the days following the earthquake: “The situation is indeed serious, and I am calling on all citizens to do their part to help rebuild our great city. We have a long road ahead of us, but we are a strong and resilient community, and I am confident that we will come through this disaster even stronger than before.”
Staggering Cost to Rebuild
The rebuilding effort was massive and costly. The estimated cost of rebuilding the city was $350 million, equivalent to over $9 billion in today’s dollars. The rebuilding effort took years, with many buildings and homes being rebuilt in a more earthquake-resistant manner than before. Despite the massive effort, however, the city was never quite the same as it had been before the earthquake.
The total cost of the damage was estimated to be between $400 million and $500 million in 1906 dollars, which is equivalent to $10.6 billion to $13.2 billion in today’s dollars. The rebuilding effort was led by architect Daniel Burnham, who had previously overseen the construction of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Burnham’s plan for San Francisco focused on creating wider streets and open spaces to improve public health and safety.
Despite the enormity of the task, the rebuilding effort was completed relatively quickly. The city’s infrastructure was largely restored within three years, with many new buildings constructed using reinforced concrete to withstand future earthquakes.
President Theodore Roosevelt expressed his sympathy for the people of San Francisco in a statement issued shortly after the earthquake: “My heart goes out to the people of San Francisco, who have suffered a great loss in this terrible disaster. The nation stands with them in their time of need, and we will do everything in our power to help them rebuild and recover.”
The Importance of Resilience
The disaster serves as a reminder of the power of nature and the importance of resilience in the face of adversity. QuakeInsurance by GeoVera provides innovative insurance solutions in catastrophe-exposed areas and is the leading provider of residential earthquake insurance. QuakeInsurance uses a strategic and agile approach to developing insurance products that are both impactful and reliable. Get a quote today!