In recent memory one of the most deadly and financially costly natural disasters in the United States has been Hurricane Katrina, and as horrific as it was, it almost pales in comparison to an event much like it, that actually predates it by 99 years, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Which is why I find the 1906 San Francisco earthquake only being ranked 69th by the public, and 68th by journalists, of Newseum’s top 100 news stories of 1900-2000 to be a little low considering how big of a news story Katrina is, then again, it may only be that big because of how recent it is in our minds, but with all the coverage of Katrina, you can almost take a look back to how the 1906 quake was covered from those images and stories.
According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, over 1,800 people lost their lives due to Hurricane Katrina (1), but by comparison according to the U.S. Geological Survey over 3,000 had lost their lives due to the quake 99 years before (2), and in both cases hundreds of thousands were left homeless, either due to the flooding of Katrina, or the fires caused by to the earthquake. With Katrina, New Orlean’s seems to resonate in many minds, much like San Francisco and the earthquake of 1906, when in reality, a lot of the areas around New Orlean’s were damaged, much like throughout the bay area there was damage from the earthquake, but for both disasters it seems to simply focus on the one city.
We all remember the images of Katrina on front pages of newspapers and on television, literally the city of New Orlean’s under water, while the quake left San Francisco looking like a city of fire, but many images up close you could easily mistake one disaster for the other. Both had many photographs of people trying to rescue others, and damaged or destroyed buildings everywhere. With help from www.usgwarchives.org (3), I was able to find scanned images of newpapers only days after the quake, and the newspapers following hurricane Katrina seemed to mirror those same papers 99 years later.
Both had similar photographs, but even the stories written within the paers, the things published in the papers were similar. Whether it be the looting reported following Katrina, or on the front page of the San Francisco Examiner (3) reporting people taking the money that has left the safety of banks for some reason or another following the quake. The calls for aid and help and the reporting of how there will now be military action to help the scene.
While the actual response and action following the disasters may vary greatly, the reporting done and the stories written do not.