Earthquake Weather?

Travel Tips, What's New — By Mary Polizzotti on March 18, 2011 at 11:46 pm

There’s been quite a stir today around San Francisco as video of Jim Berkland’s earthquake prediction circulated the web. Berkland is a retired geologist, who previously worked at the U.S. Geological Survey, and is most famous for his prediction of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Berkland believes California is at risk for seismic activity sometime in the next week, March 19 – 26. This “seismic window” is based on a series of anomalies he hypothesizes could indicate an impending quake. According to Berkman, this includes changing behaviors in animals, fish washing ashore (as they recently did in Southern California), as well as the “highest tidal force on the 19th” (due to the supermoon, the closest the moon has been to earth since 1993) combined with the spring equinox the next day.  Maybe we can add today’s San Mateo county tornado warnings to the list?


Small funnel cloud touching down at Ocean Beach – courtesy of Neorick/YouTube

Whether or not this series of events will lead to a quake, well, it’s anyone’s guess. As a born and raised east coaster, I frankly have no idea what to do in the event of an earthquake. Stand in a door frame? Crawl under a table? My first exposure to an earthquake was while watching a TV episode of the family drama Our House in 1987, the one where there’s an earthquake and a young Shannen Doherty avoids it because she’s flying in an airplane. I remember asking my mom – why doesn’t she feel the earthquake up in the air?

While I don’t want to fuel the panic fire, visitors and non-native Californians should be informed. The website gives great advice on how to prepare and what to do in disastrous situations, including earthquakes and tsunamis. A few key points:

  • Drop, cover, and hold on. Cover your head and neck.
  • Avoid anything heavy that could crush or injure you (windows, mirrors, hanging objects, appliances)
  • If you’re in downtown San Francisco, stay inside a building, unless there is a fire or gas leak. There’s very little open space to avoid being hit from high-rise debris. Don’t use elevators.
  • If you’re outside, avoid power lines, buildings, and trees. If driving, pull over and stop, but not under an over pass. At the beach? Get to higher ground, fast.

I heard an unconfirmed report that the tsunami which hit Japan traveled inland for 6 miles. Considering San Francisco is 7×7, that’s a lot of our pretty city. Fortunately, San Francisco has 47 hills, the highest being Mount Davidson at 928 feet and Twin Peaks at 922 feet. More densely populated parts of the city have the options of Bernal Heights at 433 feet (in the Mission? go here), Buena Vista Heights at 569 feet (in the Haight? go here), and Nob Hill and Pacific Heights are both around 370 feet (close to downtown, Fisherman’s Wharf, Tenderloin).

I leave you with a fascinating New York Times article from 1884 covering the subject of earthquake weather, a term I had never heard before I moved to California. Stay safe out there, my prepared friends.

Tags: earthquake, earthquake kit, prepare, san francisco, san francisco earthquake, tsunami

    1 Comment

  • Craig says:

    I thought the same thing about a tsunami hitting San Francisco after seeing the devastation in Japan. I was always worried about surviving the earthquake, but it the TSUNAMI you have to worry about it seems. According to and their “Tsunami Hazard Map”, San Francisco is relatively safe unless you are a few blocks from the Ocean. I don’t know if I believe it. Having a plan to go to higher ground after the big one seems like a good idea.


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