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MCEER Demonstrates “Why You Wouldn’t Want to Experience a Big One Like 1906”

It was a morning of combing through the devastation and ruins of historical San Francisco in a quest for clues and answers for a group of 40 University at Buffalo (UB) staff and their children, as MCEER hosted a presentation on the Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fires, part of the larger UB Bring Your Kids to Work Day event, held on April 19, 2013.

The presentation, led by MCEER’s Sofia Tangalos and Andrew McNeil, detailed the estimated M7.8 earthquake that struck early in the morning on April 18 exactly 107 years ago, the aftershocks that continued for hours afterwards, and the fires that broke out across the city and raged for three days leaving a devastation that reduced roughly one quarter of the city to ash and rubble.

Featuring an expansive array of historical photographs (oftentimes depicting before and after shots), maps, newspapers, and replications of other primary materials that recorded the event, the presentation captured the imagination of the children in attendance as Sofia and Andrew detailed what has come to be known as the worst catastrophe in American history in terms of property damage and losses.

All hope was not lost however, as the presentation concluded with a quick summary of how this tragedy proved to be the catalyst that ignited the burgeoning field of earthquake- and disaster-engineering – a field which has seen significant contribution provided by the civil engineering experts working with MCEER and the University at Buffalo for over twenty-five years. 

As the participants filed out and on to their next activity for the day, several promising “future” engineers remained in the room, their minds inspired by the possibilities ahead.

Visit the 1906 Earthquake and Fires of San Francisco website to explore more about this historic event.

The presentation featured a variety of historical photographs, maps, newspapers, and other material
from the era.


Sofia Tangalos and Andrew McNeil describe the extensive fires, which engulfed San Francisco and burned for three days.


Both the students and parents were excited to learn about the earthquake.


A variety of material depicted this disaster and conveyed the need for building codes and seismic regulations.