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What Would Happen to the Golden Gate Bridge in an Earthquake?

Travelblog Gone with the Wine Blog

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

What Would Happen to the Golden Gate Bridge in an Earthquake?

Paula Gaston

When ever we get guests from Europe we usually tour around all the "must see" places in San Francisco with them. One of them is of course the Golden Gate Bridge, perhaps even the most popular of them all. 

In order to make it easier to cross the San Francisco Bay, they started building a bridge in 1928. It was designed by Joseph B Strauss and after it was ready in 1937, it fast became famous and a landmark for San Francisco. There were a lot of challenges in building the bridge and 11 men got killed during the construction work. For a while, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Today, it is said to be the most photographed bridge in the world. Tourists all over the world come to visit the Golden Gate Bridge. One can either drive or walk over it, or even rent a bicycle or roller skates from the city to make your Golden Gate experience more memorable. Unfortunately it is also known to be a popular place for suicides and therefore has several nets under it. 

Even after the bridge was built there have been many challenges. The area sometimes gets high winds and three times during it's history, the bridge had to be closed due to high winds. But the winds are not the biggest worry. In 1989 due to the Loma Prieta earthquake it was found that the bridge might not survive in a bigger earthquake. Loma Prieta was magnitude 6.9 and it was reported that 63 people got killed. Part of the Bay Bridge in Oakland collapsed and that scared the authorities. U.C. Berkley started research on how well the Golden Gate Bridge would cope in an earthquake. According to their study, an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 would most likely destroy the bridge and a decision was made to retrofit it. That was finished by 2008. Now we can drive on the bridge more safely even though I have to say, I wouldn't want to be on the bridge during an earthquake. 

Example of how the old pilars of the Golden Gate would have bent during an earthquake

Example of how the old pilars of the Golden Gate would have bent during an earthquake

If you are visiting San Francisco, you should be prepared for quickly changing weather. If possible, plan your visit according to the weather forecast because some days can be pretty chilly and foggy. We arrived in the City, as the locals call it, just on time to see a glimpse of the sun before the fog took over part of the bridge. If you arrive from the north you will be surprised by the view. It's like a teaser, unexpectedly you will see a part of the bridge in between the hills and then it is gone. On the north end of the bridge there is a vista point, or you can do what we did; we drove up to the hills of the Marin Headlands and stopped at one of the viewpoints. They are usually crowded and parking is very limited but that is the best view you will find to see the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. Here is some evidence of how fast the weather can change:

While the other end was covered in fog, the view on this end was this:

The southern viewpoint of the bridge has a fairly new bookstore with lots of good quality souvenirs, and a small cafeteria. If you want something cheaper, just head to the Embarcadero and it is full of souvenir shops. The bridge bookstore also sells some National Park gear and the stamps for the park stamp book are there as well. The Golden Gate Bridge is part of the Golden Gate Recreation Area and therefore part of the national parks system. Don't forget to visit historic Fort Point which is located under the bridge and also belongs to the national parks. You can see it in this picture. It is worth of a visit and gives you a totally different view to the bridge.