The Roar Of Ten Thousand Lions
(Seventh in a series of stories supplementing the upcoming public television documentary)
On April 18, 1906, at 5:12 AM a 7.9 magnitude earthquake dismantled the City of San Francisco. It was said, by some, to sound like the roar of 10,000 lions as the City crumbled and exploded into flames. The massive fire that followed the quake swept through San Francisco, its embers carried in the wind and igniting buildings as they landed. San Francisco’s access to a water supply was compromised as pipeline caved and the city quickly ran out of water to combat the flames. Much of the city was simply left to burn.
Over 3,000 people died and 250,000 were without homes. The survivors camped out in Golden Gate Park, the sand dunes west of the City, or fled town all together. The needed food and clothing was quickly donated, but missing water was needed as much for the survivors as it had been for the flames.
During this time, all the water pipelines were under the control of the powerful Spring Valley Water Company. All the lines had collapsed during the earthquake and the public and politicians laid the blame on the company. The City had been working for years to take over control of bringing water to the City and this disaster helped them gain the public support needed to wrestle control from the company. Spring Valley released a report six-days after the quake announcing they were starting to pump 6,000,000 gallons a day from Lake Merced. But the popular opinion had turned against them because of the quake. The fight to gain control that had begun in 1900 during the Phelan Administration was re-ignited. By 1914, San Francisco was building a railway in the Sierra’s in anticipation of securing Hetch Hetchy. However, it would be ten more years before a bond was passed that helped move this vision forward. It was not until 1934 that the first waters flowed from the Wilderness to the City – twenty-four years after the devastating earthquake of that literally changed the face of the City.
Photos: San Francisco earthquake of 1906; Damage from the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. NOAA
Coming Spring 2018
Water From The Wilderness: From Hetch Hetchy To San Francisco Bay
Produced by Jim Yager Media
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