From The Archive: ABC7's Peabody Award winning coverage of 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake

ByCheryl Jennings and Jennifer Olney KGO logo
Sunday, October 17, 2021
Award-winning coverage of Loma Prieta Earthquake: October 17, 1989
ABC7 News reporter Leslie Brinkley stands at the edge of a collapsed section of the San Francisco Bay Bridge after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- ABC7 News Anchor Cheryl Jennings looks back at the dramatic early hours of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake as both residents and reporters were just beginning to realize the magnitude of what had happened. Jennings was at a makeshift anchor desk in a badly damaged newsroom as the chilling scenes of disaster began to appear.

The earthquake hit Northern California on Oct. 17, 1989, killing 63 people and causing billions of dollars in damage. It struck just after 5 pm, right as a World Series game between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics was about to start.

The shaking lasted for 15 seconds. When it was over many parts of the Bay Area had lost power and phone service. Most TV and radio stations were knocked off the air, but ABC7 was uniquely positioned to get the story to the Bay Area and the rest of the world.

ABC7 ORIGINAL SERIES: 'The Earthquake Effect' provides in-depth coverage on Bay Area's readiness for the next major earthquake

Just a few minutes after the earthquake hit, ABC7 used its emergency generator to become the first television station back on the air.

The ABC network was broadcasting the World Series from Candlestick Park in San Francisco and had a blimp overhead. So the blimp was sent to get the first live video of a huge fire that was engulfing the city's Marina District.

ABC7's helicopter got dramatic early shots of collapsed sections of the Cypress Freeway in Oakland and the Bay Bridge.

VIDEO: What it was like to drive on the Bay Bridge as Loma Prieta hit

ABC News reporter Leslie Brinkley and photographer John Griffin had just crossed the bridge on the way to another story when the quake hit. They were the only television crew able to get on the bridge to capture the dramatic rescue of people trapped in cars dangling over the edge of the collapsed section.

Throughout the disaster, the station broadcasted continuous information about avoiding dangers with gas and electrical lines, how to survive aftershocks, and, in what proved to be surprisingly valuable advice, how to find emergency information in the telephone book.

The station became a clearinghouse for information as a service to other news providers and area residents.

ABC7 also helped the relief effort, doing major fundraising for the Red Cross and Salvation Army, and distributing survival information. For outstanding service to its community during a time of crisis, ABC7 received the prestigious Peabody Award.

Take a look at ABC7's in-depth coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake here.